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"Fake News," Misinformation, & Disinformation

How to identify (and avoid) inaccurate information.

"Fake News," Misinformation, & Disinformation: What's the difference?

Everyone has heard the term "fake news," but do you know what it really means? Fake news is not new, but how it is being used in today's environment is something to be considered. Do you know the difference between misinformation and disinformation? Understanding the various ways that false information is shared, and the motives and appeal behind it, is important in avoiding and combating it. And, evaluating the information you find online and elsewhere, to determine its use and truthfulness, is a key life skill.

Definitions of terms associated with false information

Term Definition Source

fake news

"purposefully crafted, sensational, emotionally charged, misleading or totally fabricated information that mimics the form of mainstream news"

Fake News: Understanding Media and Misinformation in the Digital Age 
misinformation "false content that is unintentionally or unknowingly disseminated" Essential Guide to Understanding Information Disorder
disinformation "false content that is intentionally disseminated with intent to harm" Essential Guide to Understanding Information Disorder

Seven Types of Misinformation & Disinformation

"Fake news" exists within a larger ecosystem of misinformation and disinformation.

Claire Wardle of has created the helpful visual image below to help us think about the ecosystem of misinformation and disinformation. And as she points out, "it's complicated."

Seven Types of Mis- and Disinformation chart