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Misinformation, Disinformation, and Fact-Checking

Misinformation, Disinformation, and Fact-Checking


Concepts defined

The term "fake news" has become a catch-all for all different kinds of news that promote false information, intentionally mislead readers, manipulate our emotions, and provide affirmation to our existing viewpoints and biases.

To complicate things further, these days it's common for people to label news that disagrees with their own viewpoints as fake, without further investigating or verifying the information being presented. So you might hear that a news article is fake or that a news source is fake, even when it's reliable. When in doubt, fact-check for yourself (going through this guide will help!) and/or ask a librarian.

The definitions below will help clarify what is often a muddy landscape of information overload:

Fake news or hoax news Stories that promote false information. While they may be loosely influenced by facts, these stories cannot be verified. These stories often rely on language designed to get an emotional response (like outrage) from readers.
Misinformation Unintentional mistakes in information such as inaccurate photo captions, dates, statistics, translations, or when satire is taken seriously.
Disinformation Fabricated or deliberately manipulated audio/visual content. Intentionally created conspiracy theories or rumours.
Malinformation Deliberate publication of private information for personal or corporate rather than public interest, such as revenge porn. Deliberate change of context, date or time of genuine content.
Conspiracy theory A belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for a circumstance or event.
Filter bubble A situation in which an internet user encounters only information and opinions that conform to and reinforce their own beliefs, caused by algorithms that personalize an individual’s online experience.
Clickbait Content on the internet whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.
Hyperpartisan or heavily biased news Stories that present facts, often carefully selected, through a biased or hyperpartisan perspective. The stories appear on websites, Facebook pages, and other social media accounts. Hyperpartisan pages and accounts are often fake news purveyors that generate shares and clicks in order to either push a particular political view or profit from user engagement on social media platforms.
Media bias There are different levels of bias, but credible reporters and news sites attempt to present facts with objectivity; stories are carefully checked by professional fact-checkers.
News parody / satire

Stories that parody current events and reporting in a humorous way. While they often use false headlines, they are created to poke fun at current events or people, not to convince readers that the information is true. A very funny example of a news parody site is The Onion.

Image "The Bureau of Misinformation" by Thomas Hawk is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0