I. About ProCon.org
ProCon.org’s creation, funding, affiliations, and policies.
Steven C. Markoff, Chairman and CEO of A-Mark Financial Corporation, a Santa Monica-based company (originally named A-Mark Coin Company), has been active in documenting the pros and cons of controversial issues since 1986. He then created an organization to help pursue this effort, and after several iterations, that organization became ProCon.org on July 12, 2004.
ProCon.org was founded as a nonprofit charity in California and was initially funded primarily by its founder, Steven Markoff. For most of its tenure as a nonprofit organization (2004-20), ProCon.org received funding from outside sources including private companies, foundations, and individual donors, many of whom are acknowledged on the Donors & Sponsors page. Since May 29, 2020, ProCon.org has been part of the Britannica Group of companies, which includes Encyclopaedia Britannica. Britannica’s headquarters are in Chicago.
“To promote critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting the pro and con arguments to controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, freely accessible way.”
ProCon.org is neither conservative nor liberal nor otherwise politically biased. We work hard to be nonpartisan and to ensure that an individual’s bias does not appear in or affect ProCon’s presentation of issues. If you think you perceive bias in any of our content, let us know and we will immediately assess the situation.
Some people may consider our graphic design decisions, such as pro v. con (instead of con v. pro), red v. green, left column v. right column, and other distinctions, to suggest bias for one side or the other (for example, that a column on the left suggests the political “left”). Our graphic designs are meant to eliminate the perception of bias, and we realize that not everyone will agree. For example, we place the “pros” on the left and the “cons” on the right because we find that more people use the phrase “pro-con” than “con-pro” and text is read left to right on our pages.
ProCon.org has been part of the Britannica Group of companies since May 29, 2020. Britannica’s flagship publication, Encyclopaedia Britannica—the oldest continuously published and revised work in the English language, founded in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1768—is revered for its nonpartisan, expert-based, fact-checked content, which is why its mission and that of the Britannica Group of educational resources in general align so well with the mission of ProCon.org.
- Maintain strict nonpartisanship
- Keep our presentations understandable and direct
- Ensure ease of navigation and accessibility
- Be transparent about our methodology and organization
- Under-promise, over-deliver
The information on the ProCon.org websites has been compiled using the data available to us. We strive for accuracy but , like everyone, can sometimes make mistakes. We make every effort to correct errors promptly when they are brought to our attention. Please Contact Us to report any errors on our sites.
ProCon.org’s inclusion of links or references to outside sites or organizations is not intended to in any way endorse the views expressed or products/services offered by those third parties. Similarly, we bear no responsibility for the content or views expressed on sites that link to ProCon.org content.
What information does ProCon.org collect?
We collect information you provide to us, about your use of our websites and services, and about your interactions with us. We also collect information about how our network and your devices are working, including the location of your wireless devices. We may also obtain information about you from other companies, such as demographic and interest information. We also collect data about traffic on our sites, including, but not limited, to the number and type of pages viewed. Learn more
How does ProCon.org use information?
We use information to provide you with the websites and services, including newsletters and user comments, and enhance your experiences with us. This includes delivering, maintaining and improving our websites and services; developing new products and services; personalizing your experiences; and delivering marketing offers to you. When readers offer feedback on our websites, we will sometimes post their comments online. To preserve confidentiality, only the writer’s first name is usually noted, unless they specifically ask us not to include their first name, or authorize us to use their full name. Learn more
Does ProCon.org share my information?
Does ProCon.org have programs that allow other companies to use information about me?
We have optional programs that allow ProCon.org and third parties to show you advertisements that are more personalized and useful to you or to help third parties verify your identity. Another program develops insights by analyzing de-identified user information and reporting on aggregate behaviors. ProCon.org sometimes includes links to other websites. Their privacy policies may differ from ours, and we, therefore, can take no responsibility for them or their actions. Learn more
What choices do I have about your use of my information?
You have choices about how ProCon.org reaches you with marketing and whether certain types of information may be shared within ProCon.org for marketing purposes. You also have choices about other uses of your information, such as for our advertising programs, for verification purposes, and for certain uses of device information. Learn more
How does ProCon.org protect my information, and how do I update my account details?
We try to take appropriate security measures to protect against unauthorized access to or unauthorized alteration, disclosure or destruction of data. These include internal reviews of our data collection, storage and processing practices and security measures, as well as physical security measures to guard against unauthorized access to systems where we store personal data. We also provide methods for you to access, review and update your account information. Learn more
Each page on ProCon.org has a “Cite This Page” link in the bottom footer and/or right rail of the page. Clicking the “Cite This Page” link will show proper bibliographic citations for that specific page in APA, Chicago, MLA, and Turabian style formats.
See our guide on how to cite ProCon.org content.
Yes. ProCon.org has been used and referenced in the news media many thousands of times. For information on our topics or to schedule an interview, please contact us at procon[at]eb.com.
ProCon.org encourages linking to our site because it helps to advance our mission of promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship. Reprinting content is a different matter. Click here to read our “Reprinting Policy” for all reprinted and otherwise used ProCon.org content. We have broken down our policy into two sections, Reprinting Policy under “Fair Use” and Reprinting Policy for Commercial or non-“Fair Use” Requests.
No. ProCon.org is nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity that presents facts, studies, pro and con statements, and related research on important social issues. We do not provide:
- medical or legal advice
- referrals to or recommendations of marijuana dispensaries, cannabis clubs, physicians, or attorneys
- recommendations or referrals to specific physicians, counselors, organizations, or other experts on end-of-life issues
The information presented on our sites is intended for the public, policy makers, the media, scholars, scientists, judges, attorneys, librarians, teachers, and students. For more information about our audience, please visit our webpage “Who Uses ProCon.org?”
Some 20 million readers use ProCon.org annually, generating nearly 50 million pageviews each year. Students and teachers in more than 11,000 schools in all 50 U.S. states and 90 countries use our site. Additionally, 37 U.S. state governments, 17 U.S. state departments of education, 31 foreign governments, 25 U.S. federal agencies, and thousands of media outlets have cited ProCon.org.
No. ProCon teaches critical thinking, which includes mastering prudent research skills and practices. Students thereby learn the benefit of searching out and using reliable, well-researched sites like ProCon.org and Encyclopaedia Britannica. We conduct research so that our readers can more easily understand diverse perspectives on controversial issues.
Some teachers may think ProCon.org provides too much information and detracts from the development of student research skills. Other teachers, however, have reported that ProCon.org provides sourced information in a relevant context that helps students to further their research skills by tracking down primary sources and pursuing new lines of inquiry.
We continually ask our readers for new topic suggestions. Please send us your questions, ideas, and comments. Strong reader demand has led to the development of dozens of new topics including our standardized testing, euthanasia, immigration, death penalty, and social networking websites.
Ideas are also generated internally based on topics that are controversial and important to many Americans. We prefer topics with strong emotions on both sides that lend themselves to our nonpartisan presentation of facts and arguments so that people can better understand these issues and formulate their own perspectives. We also cover some issues, such as felon voting and milk, that are important to a smaller audience and often overlooked by mainstream media.
Our internal checklist provides that new ProCon.org issue websites are:
- Important to many Americans, controversial, useful to promote critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship, stand-alone topics (not part of larger issues), and complementary to ProCon.org’s diverse subject offering.
Yes. Although ProCon.org is a U.S.-based organization that tends to focus on issues important to Americans, much of our research has international relevance. For example, two of our websites, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Iraq, are clearly international, and dozens of our questions and resources have an international focus (euthanasia laws in Holland and Belgium, doping in the Olympics, and abortion, prostitution, drinking age, and felon voting laws around the world, among others). In addition, many of our other topics are not restricted by geography (cell phone safety, healthfulness of milk, global climate change, the origins of sexual orientation, etc.).
Not normally. Usually one person leads the research process on an issue website, and it is common for several researchers to contribute by adding biographies, questions, pro and con responses, resources, etc.
ProCon.org presents many sides of an issue – not just two. The arguments published reflect a diversity of opinions and research that span the breadth of the debate. While these diverse points of view are normally organized into two columns – one pro and one con, they are intended to reflect a broad range of perspectives in the debate. For example, in the debate over gun control, we ask the question, “Should more gun control laws be enacted?” and in response we present 15 pro and 15 con arguments compiled from more than 100 sources. Many ProCon.org issue website contain historical backgrounds, videos, photographs, charts, graphs, sub-questions, polls, and other educational resources that further extend the range of perspective. In addition, on our Top Pro & Con Quotes pages, we often include statements that are categorized as “Not Clearly Pro or Con.” Our goal is to explore debates from many angles so our readers get a full and unbiased view of the issues, perspectives, and facts.
Our questions are developed by researching the topics, contacting related experts and organizations, and receiving feedback and ideas from readers. The questions are intended to thoroughly explore the core question and related issues.
We encourage readers to send us more or better questions, responses, and information that are more specific, more direct, and/or have better sources than those posted.
Questions, including core questions, are usually worded deliberately so that a Pro response is generally considered to be Pro the topic and a Con response is generally considered to be Con the topic.
Responses are intended to be relevant, responsive, clear, concise, and properly sourced. They represent our professionally researched and curated nonpartisan compilation of the best Pro, Con, or General Reference responses we can find or produce on each question we ask.
Responses are generally posted in order of their quality (best arguments first) and currency (having newer statements appear first is a plus). Although many readers want the most recent quotes and resources, we sometimes add or keep older statements for historical perspective, variety, relevance of source to debate, strength of argument, and other reasons.
If the researcher is unable to present at least one Pro and Con argument for the question, the following are considered: eliminating the question until at least one Pro and one Con can be found; rephrasing the question to allow an opposing viewpoint; rephrasing the question to make the pro-con argument a general reference; using the good argument in a different section; or providing an [Editor’s note:] in the empty opposing section to acknowledge and explain the lack of a counter argument (this option should be rarely used).
No. We always try to include the best arguments on both sides of all debates, and we also always work to make the pro-con columns visually balanced. Sometimes one side, for whatever reason, simply takes less space to make their case. Therefore, equality in column length is not always achievable. Any visual imbalance in a pro vs. con column is unintentional and does not suggest any bias for one side or the other. We hope that our readers focus more on the quality of the arguments than their length.
Our sources include websites, magazines, newspapers, libraries, transcripts, videos, interviews, emails, legislation, direct correspondence, and more.
Our researchers use advanced internet search strategies, scour studies, articles, etc., solicit responses from experts via email and phone, and are resourceful in general when it comes to finding the best, clearest, most well-sourced, most compelling information from diverse sources.
We base our Pro, Con, or Not Clearly Pro or Con (NC) designation on what the sourced person or organization has said, written, done, or otherwise verifiably expressed about an issue.
Sometimes a person or organization has made a prior Pro, Con, or NC statement or action about their position on an issue (including voting on legislation, filing documents in court, or making official statements) that reflects a contrary position from their current position on that issue. In such cases, we show the differing statements so readers can see how that position has or seems to have changed. We normally add “Now” in front of the most current position, as in “Now Con” or “Now Pro” and add an Editor’s Note to describe the position change and the source and date of that change.
For example, presidential candidate Barack Obama made a “Con” gay marriage statement on August 18, 2008, during a televised debate with John McCain at Saddleback College. He said: “I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. For me, as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. You know, God’s in the mix.” On May 9, 2012, President Obama made a “Pro” statement on the issue of gay marriage during an interview with Robin Roberts on ABC’s Good Morning America. He said: “… at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.” We then designated Barack Obama as “Now Pro” on the issue of gay marriage and added a sourced Editor’s Note including his prior “Con” statement.
We select entries for our historical timelines that are on topic (“Is it relevant to our specific issue and question?”), historic (“Is it likely to still be relevant in 10 years?”), and key (“Among historic events, is this one especially significant?”), and we present them with sources in a nonpartisan manner.
We choose facts for the “Did You Know?” section based on the following criteria:
- We want to educate and entertain ProCon.org visitors. Think “fun facts.”The feel of the section should be friendly and inviting. Facts should be hard-hitting and compelling. Present only facts. No statements should be ambiguous or subject to rational argument. Facts should be straightforward and brief. Facts should contain a link to more information on that particular subject on ProCon.org.
Yes and no. Sites that are not labeled “archived” are sometimes updated several times per week and other times fewer than once or twice every few months.The frequency of updates varies based on:
- whether or not something new and materially significant happened on a topic (for example, if a new state legalizes medical marijuana, we would update our medical marijuana website right away; when the $25 million INTERPHONE study on cell phones came out, we updated Cell Phones ProCon.org within 24 hours; and, if a new state were to ban the death penalty, we would update the Death Penalty ProCon.org website soon afterwards)
- how important timeliness is to the topic itself. For example, our website about “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance contains many historic quotes from the U.S. Founding Fathers and former U.S. presidents, and several major court cases involving this issue have long passed; timeliness is less relevant to this topic than many of our other topics.
Sites labeled “archived” are normally not updated, although we may choose to update them when something materially significant occurs on the topic.There are also typically dates on each page indicating exactly when that page was last updated.
We archive a website when: the site is considered “good enough” by the editorial team; the core question of the issue site has been resolved or is otherwise irrelevant; the site is considered complete (95% by policy); the site’s average quality is in the “A” range (90% “A”s or higher); or the site has passed the point of diminishing returns and updates to the site have low value.
Yes. We generally provide the source’s name and title and education along with the title of the article, and name and date of publication where that source’s quotation appeared. You’ll see that information in the introductory statement that precedes every pro or con or not clearly pro or con statement.
For further disclosure, we also create a biography of each source where we show the source’s title, education, work experience, affiliations, contact information, position statement on the site’s core question, and more.
Responses are sourced to the author(s) of the article, study, report, etc. –meaning ProCon.org creates a biography for the author—except in the following two cases:
- No author provided—then reference the organization responsible.
- Example: a Newsweek article without an author would be sourced as Newsweek.
- Example: Iraq Study Group report without an author would be sourced as Iraq Study Group.
- Author is communicating on behalf on an organization for which he/she is authorized to speak and not on behalf of him/herself—then reference the organization on whose behalf the author is communicating.
- Example: i. Example: Tim Roberts writes an article stating that the Gay and Lesbian Association of Evangelicals (GLAE)—an organization for whom he is the spokesperson—thinks gay marriage should be legal. The source is GLAE.Intro statement would read: “The Gay and Lesbian Association of Evangelicals (GLAE), in a statement from its spokesperson Tim Roberts …”
- Example: Susan Haymaker, a disgruntled employee at Boeing, says Boeing is a bad company to work for. The source is Susan Haymaker.
- Linda McGee, a spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says that she supports the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The source is Linda McGee.
ProCon cites the lead author of studies in peer-reviewed journals. Lead authors are normally explicitly identified in a study. When they are not explicitly identified, lead authors are generally listed first and non-alphabetically among others who appear in alphabetical order.
- Wanting to avoid clutter: Part of the purpose of ProCon.org is to save our readers time by finding the best research and compiling it in one place. By linking to the content referenced on the site, we would be sending our readers all over the Internet—something we want them to avoid by using ProCon.org as a resource.
- Avoiding broken links: Increasing the number of links to third-party sites means we also increase the likelihood of having broken links on ProCon.org pages. We do not have the resources to monitor and repair the thousands of new links that offsite links would require.
ProCon.org normally adds full-text PDF copies of studies referenced on the website unless the study’s publisher explicitly bars reprinting without authorization (and we have no such authorization), requires a fee-based licensing agreement (and we have no such agreement), or charges for public access to their copyrighted study.
The quotes listed in our biographies are responses to the core question posted on each topic’s homepage. We contacted the individuals and organizations’ principals (or spokespersons) or found a quote in a mainstream publication that answers the question. We show the dates of the quotes so the reader can put them in a historical context.
When someone has changed his/her views on a topic, we will often retain the quote used on the website and mention the position change [in a bracketed Editor’s Note] along with the date and source reflecting the change. In some cases, we will post a Pro and a Con statement reflecting both the current and prior positions if they are both deemed especially relevant to the question being asked.
Although many people and organizations are occasionally careless or intentionally misleading with facts, data, and communications, we at ProCon.org believe that government and their officials should always disseminate accurate and truthful information (with the arguable exception of real national security needs).
ProCon will comment when we believe that information put out by government officials or organizations is false, misleading, or erroneous.
We will also comment in those few cases when the contributor believes that the information he/she is contributing should appear to others as having the opposite view as a plain reading of the material would seem to suggest.
We don’t comment on information that may be slanted, biased, or not clearly valid.
Comments by ProCon’s editor will be noted in red in this format:[Editor’s Note: The government report is based on the testimony of a physician whose license to practice medicine was revoked within six months of the report’s release. 12/30/16]
Occasionally. We have limited resources and usually update biographies for material changes only.
For example, we may update biographies to reference a major new title for a major public figure (for example, Senator Obama becoming President Obama), to confirm old position statements (for example, to see if the American Medical Association’s Not Clearly Pro or Con statement on medical marijuana remains current in 2017), to fix an error, or for other reasons.
For transparency, we provide the “last updated” information on each biography.
Although ProCon.org will not normally remove publicly available and accurate information, including biographies, from its websites, we will remove or modify information that we have determined is incorrect or misleading.
ProCon.org biographies should contain relevant information about the source. Sometimes an individual, for whatever reason, does not want certain biographical information published on our website.
He or she should let us know their position and request by email. We may leave the quote as is, add an Editor’s Note (in red) to the biography explaining that the quoted person believes we improperly quoted him/her and why, and/or include a PDF of the entire article/statement so that our readers can make up their own minds about the statement(s) we have quoted.
Sometimes a ProCon.org site source asks to have their public comment or quotation altered or erased altogether because they feel embarrassed by their past statements or they may feel that we have misrepresented their assertions or they may have simply changed their opinion over time.
We believe that a person’s past published statements are irrevocably a part of history, and consequently, in its commitment to historical accuracy, ProCon.org’s policy is to keep all source statements, when accurately recorded by ProCon.org, as part of the historical record even if that individual has substantially different views or statements later.
Therefore, ProCon.org will not delete source statements from our sites unless we have incorrectly quoted the person or entity, presented their statements in a misleading manner, found a more credible source stating the same position (so we would normally drop the one in question), or other compelling reasons.
If the source simply wants to update their position to our core question, then we would normally post their updated statement in their biography. If the new statement contradicts or is substantially different from the prior statement, then both statements may or may not appear (along with the date and source for each new statement).
Evaluating the credibility of one person’s statements is difficult if not impossible, especially without knowing, for example, each person’s background, training, affiliations, education, or experience.
We have therefore built theoretical expertise rankings for each ProCon.org website to help differentiate the theoretical expertise of the various sources on our sites. We have customized the star categories to each of our sites’ specific content because of their different subject matter.
The Medical Marijuana site lists physicians as 4-star “KEY EXPERTS,” while other sites may not even have the “Key Expert” category.
Ambassadors or diplomats to the Middle East might be 3-star “Experts” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but probably not in the Medical Marijuana issue.
Therefore, to better understand our theoretical expertise ranking of the contributors to each site, visit that site’s Theoretical Expertise Rankings page.
The Theoretical Expertise Rankings system is designed as a simple way to gauge the theoretical credibility of the responses received, although we note that sometimes, for example, a 1-star source may be better informed or more credible than a 5-star source.
Arguably, the expertise rankings have been the most difficult part of ProCon.org’s presentation, in part because we have tried to make it an easy to use and useful tool for subjective and complicated questions.
Our theoretical expertise rankings are based upon the following premises:
- The courts and many people equate a level of education and knowledge with a person’s theoretical expertise.
- Although ProCon.org doesn’t have the resources to make complex evaluations of the expertise of each contributor to our website and such an evaluation would still contain a fair amount of subjectivity, we believe our theoretical ranking is more desirable than no ranking at all, and that it should be accurate at least 80% of the time.
Some have questioned, for instance, why we have chosen to give government reports our highest rating of five stars.
Our thinking is that government facts and statistics are generally reliable. However, what is less reliable, hence our lower rating, is when government personnel attempt to quote from such facts out of context, or worse, when they misuse those facts on purpose or by accident.
For example, we generally would give our highest rating, five stars, to a government report saying that there have been 52,850 killed in auto accidents in a given time period, but we would consider it less credible for a government employee to say in a speech, “Fifty-thousand people died last year in auto accidents.” The government employee would probably receive one, three, or possible four stars, depending on the person’s education and position.
We usually don’t rank organizations anything other than 1-star because they are often dynamic and composed of a myriad of influences, making a ranking difficult and partially subjective.
When we do rank organizations higher — such as the New York Times (which we rate as 2-star) — and, when that organization prints an editorial, a quote from that editorial would carry a 2-star rating. However, if that same organization quotes an individual who we believe should be rated a 1, 3, or 4 star that quote would carry a 1, 3, or 4 star rating.
Contributors who request that their name be withheld from their responses will be posted as anonymous. We discourage anonymous submissions because they cannot be rated on our Theoretical Expertise Rankings page.
- Share your comments, suggestions, and ideas for new topics by writing us here: procon[at]eb.com. .
- Link to ProCon.org from your own website or blog and from pages on popular user-generated content sites. Please observe their rules carefully.
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- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and quote data from ProCon.org.
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If you would like to learn more about volunteering or interning for ProCon.org, please write us at procon[at]eb.com
Yes. Write us at procon[at]eb.com or use our Contact page.
When someone writes to suggest that we review particular studies or articles, we normally ask for the exact comments they think are suitable for specific questions so we can more efficiently find and review them.
Each of our sites also features interactive readers comments sections in which we invite respectful debate.
No. ProCon.org does not accept submissions for publication of articles or studies.However, ProCon.org does often reference, cite, and excerpt portions of third-party research. For such consideration, please email us at procon[at]eb.com and provide:
- Link to or PDF of article/study, and
- Which specific passage(s) you believe we should consider excerpting or referencing, and
- Where exactly on ProCon.org you believe it should appear, and
Yes. If your lesson plans or educational resources reference ProCon.org content, then please let us know, and we may add them to our website in “Lesson Plans Using ProCon.org” or “How Educators Use ProCon.org” in order to give other teachers or librarians ideas for their own plans.
To let us know, email links to procon[at]eb.com to where ProCon.org is referenced, send the lesson or resource itself as an email attachment, or provide a testimonial statement about your use of ProCon.org. Remember to include the name and location of your school.
No. We do not take positions or offer critiques of third-party information sources.
Yes. Links to ProCon.org are greatly appreciated. We only ask that ProCon.org be represented as an unbiased site and that the content not be misrepresented.
No. ProCon.org does not participate in any reciprocal link exchanges.
We do provide links in the Contact Information field of the biographies for organizations and individuals that are quoted on the website.
If you send us a great statement that we use on the website, then we will provide you a link to it.
Perhaps, depending on the topic you choose, but such funding would not cause us to build a website on a topic that we did not believe was timely and appropriate.
For example, if we are considering five topics acceptable to ProCon.org for development and we have focused on topic #1, but a donor offers us $75,000 – $100,000 — the approximate cost to develop a ProCon.org website from scratch — or more to develop topic #5 ahead of topic #1, we would then consider moving topic #5 to the top of our development list.
Yes, ProCon.org normally responds to emails within one-two business days. ProCon.org does not send a response if the email is from a bogus email address; lewd, offensive, or otherwise clearly demonstrates an abuse of our Contact Us pages; uses unidentifiable characters or language; the email is one of repeated and unrelated customer replies to our replies; or the email is threatening or litigious.