Dictionary.com’s 2018 Word of the Year—misinformation—is more than a word; it’s a call to action.
Dictionary.com defines “misinformation” as “false information that is spread.” And today’s rampant dissemination of “misinformation” poses special challenges for navigating communications in every field.
It’s important to distinguish “misinformation” from “disinformation”; the two are not interchangeable. “Disinformation” means “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.” The difference is marked by intention.
Thus, when people spread “misinformation,” they believe the information they are sharing to be true or unbiased. In contrast, “disinformation” is crafted and disseminated deliberately to mislead others.
A piece of “disinformation” can ultimately become “misinformation” depending on who’s sharing it and why. For example, if politicians strategically spread information (via articles, photos, etc.) they know to be false, that’s “disinformation.” When a person sees it, believes it, and shares it, that’s spreading “misinformation.”
The point is to learn the difference between them, heighten your sensitivity to their nuances, and don’t knowingly spread either.
What can you do to fight misinformation at work and elsewhere? Armed with awareness, you can:
- learn to recognize misinformation and work toward stopping its spread
- improve your own media literacy by carefully considering the sources of your information
- fact-check the stories you encounter on social media before believing them
- commit to reading entire articles—not just the headlines—before sharing them
- point others to fact-checking resources when you recognize how misinformation being spread
You’re encouraged to read more on this topic by doing an online search. You’ll see it’s a hot discussion that affects everyone who communicates.
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