Misinformation vs Disinformation

The main difference between Misinformation and Disinformation is intention;

  • Misinformation occurs when people share false content, but believe it’s true
  • Disinformation refers to known false content shared intentionally to mislead targets

Examples of Misinformation

There have been many cases where public figures / celebrities have shared false content related to coronavirus. It is unlikely that each one intentionally spread harmful content to their fans, but the end result is the same; the false information was amplified to a large audience (potentially impacting each reader, and leading to further amplification).

Aggressors intentionally create emotive content which is likely to be shared. Every account which amplifies their falsehoods to a wider audience is a win; another roll of the dice that their narrative will be viewed and believed. As such, disinformation which strikes a chord with the right audience can evolve into misinformation.

The important thing to note is that you don’t have to have bad intentions to contribute to information disorder, and count towards an “aggressor”‘s efforts in the Disinformation Cycle.

Misinformation in the wild:
  1. These influencers and celebrities are spreading debunked coronavirus hoaxes on their massive platforms – Insider
  2. Meet the celebrities pushing 5G coronavirus conspiracies to millions of fans – Coda Story
  3. If you need the police but can’t talk, dial 999 from a mobile, then 55 when prompted and don’t hang up – Full Fact

Examples of Disinformation

It’s hard to accurately gauge the intention behind the sharing of false content. It’s very easy to claim sarcasm or ignorance, and difficult to disprove.

That said, there are some examples of reporting on intentional disinformation (The Macedonian Teens Who Mastered Fake News – WIRED), and many detailing the activity of inauthentic accounts (White nationalist group posing as antifa called for violence on Twitter – NBC, Duterte’s troll armies drown out Covid-19 dissent in the Philippines – Coda Story).