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ITE 119 - Media Literacy

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Misinformation vs. Disinformation

Two important terms related to media literacy are misinformation  and disinformation.  These two terms may sound similar but they refer to different concepts.

Misinformation is incorrect, false, or misleading information that's shared with others, whether this is intentional or not.

Examples:

  • You get an email that a meeting will start at 3:30.  You misread the email and think the meeting will start at 8:30, and you tell others about this. This is accidental misinformation.
  • You tell your nemesis that the end of the year party will be a costume party, knowing full well that in fact it will be black tie. This is misinforming on purpose.

Disinformation is incorrect, false, or misleading information that is spread around on purpose and usually covertly, with the goal to influence public opinion and/or conceal the truth. 

Examples:

  • Country A is at war with Country B.  Country A agents disseminate a letter from a soldier who is being kept in prison by Country B. The letter details cruelty and other violations and helps increase hatred and dislike of Country B.  However, the letter is fake. There is no such soldier; the whole story is made up.
  • The military of Country B floods the news with rumors that certain high officials from Country A have been double agents for years.  This is not true, but it causes fear and chaos in Country A.

To learn more about misinformation and disinformation, read the sources linked below.

Types of Misinformation

Misinformation comes in different flavors, among them:

  • Fake News
    • A type of misinformation that has become politicized. Often applied to anything a person disagrees with, regardless of credibility.
  • Satire
    • Not intended to be harmful, but can be misinterpreted; uses humor or exaggeration to critique or mock something or someone
  • False Context
    • Genuine information is shared with false context in order to change its meaning
  • Imposter Content
    • Impersonating real/genuine information
  • Manipulated Content
    • Real  information is manipulated/altered. Usually intended to deceive (e.g. doctored photos)
  • Fabricated Content
    • Information is completely untrue and is designed to deceive and cause harm
  • False Connection
    • Headlines/captions don't match the content/imagery
  • Misleading Content
    • Intentionally misusing content to frame an issue or individual in a different light

Source: News Literacy Project

Intent Behind Misinformation

Some reasons why someone would spread misinformation:

  • To make money
  • To create trouble
  • Partisan advantage or persuasion
  • Political division or mistrust
  • Propaganda
  • Emotional reactions

Source: News Literacy Project

Strategies to Recognize and Debunk Misinformation

The most efficient strategies to help you recognize and/or debunk misinformation are lateral reading and fact checking.

  • Lateral Reading
    • Lateral reading is searching for information about a source while you are reading it. You extend your reading to sources around and about the source. For more information, see the lateral reading playbook.
  • Fact Checking
    • Fact checking refers to verifying everything about a source: the author, the author's credentials, the sources the author cites, any facts, information, or statistics the author uses, etc. You are basically making sure everything about the source is legit. For more information, see this fact checking infographic.

Fact Checking Websites