Misinformation. Disinformation. What is Real?

January 28, 2021

Lisa Balbach
Contributing Writer
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With all the information at our fingertips these days, how can you tell what is real and what is fake? How do you know if the information you are reading is correct and truthful? How can you avoid falling victim to disinformation campaigns? How can you avoid spreading disinformation yourself?


Misinformation and disinformation are similar because both include incorrect information; however, their intent is different. Misinformation is an honest mistake. Occasionally, I will read a retraction in a paper that corrects misinformation in a previous issue. The paper is trying to correct an honest mistake and they are owning up to it.


Disinformation is the deliberate spread of lies to a target audience. I see a lot of this on social media. When people believe and share disinformation on social media, it perpetuates the problem. Pretty soon, more and more people believe the disinformation is real because they have read it in many different places.


We have all heard about fake news, but we have not heard much about what to do about it. How do we combat disinformation campaigns? Our best defense is to become critical readers and critical thinkers.
 

Here are a few things you can do to discern what is real from what is either fake or sensationalized:

 

  1. Look at the source of the posting. Is the source reputable? Have they been in business a long time? Have you heard of them before?

  2. Read articles and see if the headlines reflect the content of the article. If the headline does not accurately reflect the content, then you need to ask yourself: why? If the headline is deceptive, do you believe the article is credible?

  3. Look for social media disclaimers. Ask yourself, do I really want to take time to read this when there are issues with the information being presented?

  4. Think about how the post makes you feel. If an article makes you angry or upset, you should double check the accuracy of the information in it.


If we do not buy into disinformation, it cannot propagate and spread. The key is to think before we share so we become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.