Another dot in the blogosphere?

Fake news, misinformation, and disinformation

Posted on: August 24, 2018

I know people who do not like to use “fake news” because Trump uses the phrase and has bent its meaning beyond logic. According to Agent Orange, fake news is anything that he disagrees with. His feelings and opinions trump logic and facts.

Instead some prefer to use misinformation and disinformation.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines misinformation simply as “incorrect or misleading information”.

The same dictionary defines disinformation as “false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumours) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth”.

The fine line between them seems to be the intent of the holder of the information. Merriam-Webster focuses on the deliberateness of spreading of such information.

Over at Quora, a writer distinguishes the two by focusing on what the holder of information believes or knows: If the holder believes the false information is true, it is misinformation; if the holder knows that the false information is false, it is spreading disinformation.

The nuance is important if one is to solve a problem without becoming part of it. For example, you might be focusing on critical information literacy and choose not to promote the careless use of “fake news”.

Fake news can be an empty phrase while misinformation and disinformation include intent. That nuance creates meaning upon which you can build critical discourse.

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