So what exactly is Disinformation?

It’s important to understand the various terms being used these days to describe information and their purposes.

  • Disinformation – information presented as factual but can be demonstrated to be false and was created intentionally to deceive. Ex. Conspiracy theories
  • Misinformation – unintentionally false or inaccurate information created in error. The problem begins when this type of information is shared before it’s been verified.
  • Malformation – public distribution of factual private information with the intention of doing harm. Ex. Leaking of classified information, malware
  • Fake News – a story that is presented as being a genuine item of news but is in fact not true and is intended to deceive people.
  • Yellow Journalism – sensational and shocking news containing little or no legitimate researched information. Rampant on the Internet.
  • Propaganda – the distributing of information to support a cause. It has acquired a negative connotation because that information sometimes includes false claims and rumors, selective facts. Ex. political campaigns
  • Satire – real or made-up stories that are told humorously without the intention of deceiving. Ex. The Onion

Why is Disinformation so appealing?

It's provocative. It's intended to create an emotional response! Let's analyze it -

Often there's a kernel of truth in disinformation making it "feel" real, thus creating a false sense of security about its accuracy. Disinformation works on the principle called "illusory truth." It's the notion that if you repeat a false statement often enough people will start to believe it's ’s true.

This brief video explains the "illusory truth effect."

Advertising executives and politicians count on this phenomenon! Bots are spreaders of it! By creating multiple likes they instill a sense that the story must be true. This promotes a need to “jump on the bandwagon” even if the information hasn’t been verified.

Your part in thwarting Disinformation - Develop a Digital IQ

You have an important role to play in stopping the spread of disinformation! IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FACTS!

An initial checklist

  • Be careful of what you share! Read it through, check the source, verify the facts. Don't be a "carrier of disinformation!"
  • Take your "emotional temperature."
    • How does what you read make you feel? Outraged, terrified, helpless? That’s the purpose of disinformation. Take a step back and do some fact-checking.
  • "I can’t believe my eyes!" Then don't!

An important question: Where do you get your news?

From an original source written by reporters and journalists?

Ex. Newspaper (print or online), magazine,TV, radio, database

  • It's the responsibility of journalists to accurately report information. Admittedly, some do it better than others. A second layer of credibility can be found in checking out the newspaper or magazine itself. Is it the New York Times or the New York Evening?
  • How can you tell the good from the bad, the fake from the real? Google the title and read its "about" page. Use a newspaper database. Libraries pay to subscribe to them because they contain reliable sources.

From a secondary source like a news app or aggregator?

Ex. Blogs, social media like Facebook and Twitter

  • These only compile news stories. There's not always a "gatekeeper" managing what stories are being distributed. Some aggregators may use a method by which they provide you news stories based on your previous viewing habits greatly limiting what you read.
  • Again, do some research into where you're getting your new stories from. If you use an app, is it linked to a reputable source? If you use an aggregator, it is giving you a balanced view? If you get your news from social media, try to find the original story.

Disinformation Resources “Toolkit”

The following tips and sites can help you develop your disinformation reflexes

Run it through Google using the key term(s) and hoax

  • Example search: Clorox COVID Treatment and hoax (You can also use and true or and false)

Analyze the URL

  • Ex. Can you spot the fake?

Credible sites for COVID-19

Credible fact-checkers

Image checkers