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"Fake News," Misinformation & Disinformation

How to identify (and avoid) false information.

What is "fake news"?

The term "fake news" is not new, but how it has been used in recent years to impact our local and national conversations around economic, political, societal, and public health issues is something that needs to be considered.

For the purpose of this guide, "fake news" is defined as “purposefully crafted, sensational, emotionally charged, misleading or totally fabricated information that mimics the form of mainstream news” (Zimdars & McLeod, 2020).

Understanding the various ways that fabricated information is produced and shared -- and the motivations behind it -- is important. Further, knowing how to evaluate the quality of information you find online is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not. It's also a key life skill.

Misinformation and disinformation

In a paper published by First Draft News, scholar Claire Wardle identifies three types of information, falling under the umbrella of “information disorder”: 

Ven Diagram of information disorder

Misinformation = False content that is unintentionally or unknowingly disseminated.

Disinformation = False content that is intentionally disseminated with intent to harm.

Malinformation = Genuine content that is intentionally disseminated with intent to harm. 

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