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Misinformation, Disinformation & Fake News

This guide will help you understand misinformation using useful checklists, fact-checking tools, library resources, and other sources.

Note: Some authors distinguish misinformation and disinformation, where the former may involve an actor spreading inaccurate information that they believe is true, and the latter involves a conscious attempt to deceive. In practical applications, disinformation is generally treated as a subset of misinformation, as it is more difficult to ascertain the motives of actors transmitting inaccurate information.

Most of this guide content foucses on Disinformation (Fake News) that refers to any form of communication with an intention to mislead for a certain purpose (e.g. to deceive people, or to promote a biased agenda). The information in such a communication is purposefully false or contains a misrepresentation of the truth. Disinformation can be used by individuals, companies, media outlets, and even government agencies.

Types of Disinformation (Quoted from: Ungvarsky, J. (2020). Disinformation. In Salem Press Encyclopedia. Salem Press.)

  • Misleading content, or information and half-truths presented in such a way as to place a person or an issue in a negative light.
  • Imposter content, or information from a source that deliberately impersonates a known and trustworthy source.
  • False content, where legitimate, truthful content is mixed with intentionally false content to give credibility to the false content.
  • Fabricated content, or information that is composed completely of information the source knows to be false.
  • False connection, or information that implies something in a headline, photo, video clip, or caption that is not a fair representation of the body of the article or other content.
  • Manipulated content, or content that is intentionally altered to create a false impression. An example is photo-shopping an individual into a photo at an event where he or she was were not present.

Simply put, you can use these defiinitions: 

Disinformation: Information that is false and deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organization, or country.

Misinformation: Information that is false but not created with the intention of causing harm.

Mal-information: Information that is based in reality and used to inflict harm on a person, social group, organization, or country.

UNESCO. "Journalism, 'Fake News' and Disinformation: A Handbook for Journalism Education and Training."

Media Literacy Modules

The MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality has created a course that addresses misinformation both in terms of specific contemporary technological phenomena and a broader media perspective:

Media Literacy in the Age of Deepfakes