Misinformation or DisinformationSkill Level 4, Published on: Nov 28, 2018
Many people mix up the meaning of misinformation with the word disinformation. They sometimes use one term in place of the other.
Dictionary.com defines misinformation as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” And it describes disinformation as “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.”
So what's the difference?
Officials at Dictionary.com say it comes down to what the writer or speaker actually means. They say that “when people spread misinformation, they often believe the information they are sharing.” But disinformation is often shared with the goal of misleading others. For example, if people share information that they know to be false in a story or a picture, that is disinformation.
Jane Solomon is a language expert with Dictionary.com. She told VOA that the choice of misinformation, instead of disinformation, was done for a reason. She said, “disinformation is a word that looks outside of ourselves. You can point a finger at someone who is spreading this disinformation.”
As for misinformation, “there is a quality of looking inward and it helps us evaluateour own behavior” to fight against the spread of misinformation.
The word misinformation has been used since the late 1500s. But Solomon said the word was chosen this year because it also “ties to a lot of events that are happening in 2018.”
In Myanmar, misinformation, like hate speech and propaganda, fueled violence against Rohingya Muslims. And there were riots in Sri Lanka after stories that proved false set the country's Buddhist majority against Muslims.
The disappearance and reported killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi fueled misinformation about him and his fiancée. And stories about Brazil’s recent presidential election were filled with misinformation, everything from incorrect voting times to false campaign promises.
Facebook and other social media websites have published misinformation, including images of police arresting immigrants and long lines at voting stations in the United States. They also posted incorrect voting hours and false voting requirements before the November 6 elections.
Liz McMillan is head of Dictionary.com. She noted that the online publisher has chosen words like identity in 2015, xenophobia in 2016, and complicit in 2017.
She said, “By arming our users with these words and enabling them to identify misinformation when it is encountered gives us a fighting chance against its influence.”
Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.
toxic (adj.) - poisonous
regardless of (phase) - without being stopped or affected
biased (adj.) /ˈbajəst/ - having or showing a bias : having or showing an unfair tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others
- She is too biased to write about the case objectively.
manipulate (v.) /məˈnɪpjəˌleɪt/ - to move or control (something) with your hands or by using a machine
- manipulate a computer mouse
narrative (n.) /ˈnerətɪv/ - a story that is told or written
- He is writing a detailed narrative of his life on the island.
evaluate (v.) /ɪˈvæljəˌweɪt/ - to judge the value or condition of (someone or something) in a careful and thoughtful way
- We need to evaluate our options.
fiancée (n.) - a woman that a man is engaged to be married to
Answer these questions about the article.
- Do people mix these two words?
- What is misinformation?
- What is disinformation?
- What is the difference?
Fill in the blanks
Fill in the blanks with the correct word listed below.
toxic, biased, manipulate, evaluate
- His opinion on this subject is very ______.
- We need to _______ the situation before moving on.
- This water looks ______-.
- Practice your _______ of this robot.
Have a discussion on following questions.
- Do you know the difference between these two words?
- How do you know when something is a disinformation?
- Are you careful not to believe fake news?