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EN 101: The Process of Writing

Misinformation & Disinformation: What are they?

Misinformation and disinformation are both terms for false or misleading information. They are not the same thing, and they are not new. However, current media technologies enable them to spread quickly, widely, and to become very powerful. 

Misinformation: Not on purpose! Disinformation: On purpose.


Misinformation is any incorrect information that is shared without an intent to deceive. The person sharing it probably thinks it's true. 


Disinformation is false or misleading information shared with an intent to mislead, confuse, or deceive people. 

How does it happen?

Anyone can share misinformation, whether verbally or online.

Regular internet users might see disinformation—or just mistaken reporting—and assume it's true. If they share it, they spread misinformation. Being careful and critical about information you share can help reduce the spread of misinformation. 

How does it happen?

Disinformation is created on purpose by people with an agenda. Often this agenda is political or social, but there are also examples of disinformation being introduced as a prank.

Social media algorithms reward clicks and attention. Bad actors wanting to introduce disinformation can take advantage of this, especially if they have money for ads. Once the disinformation is out there, anyone who believes it might share it, helping it spread and even go viral. 


Learn More with Crash Course Media Literacy

The video below is called "The Dark(er) Side of Media" and it is from a video series called Crash Course Media Literacy. Watch this video to learn more about misinformation and disinformation and how they fit into the media landscape, both now and throughout history. 

If you are interested in even more, you can find the whole Crash Course Media Literacy series in Academic Video Online through the library. Here is a link to the first episode: Introduction to Media Literacy.

Sources Consulted for this Page

Garner, Bryan. Garner's Modern English Usage, Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central,

O'Shaughnessy, Nicholas. "From Disinformation to Fake News: Forwards into the Past." The SAGE Handbook of Propaganda, edited by Paul Baines, et al., Sage UK, 1st edition, 2020. Credo Reference, the_past/0?institutionId=1465

"The Growth—and Danger—of Fake News: The Disinformation Deluge (2010s-Present)." Opinions Throughout History: Social Media, Micah L. Issitt, Grey House Publishing, 1st edition, 2019. Credo Reference, news_the_disinformation_deluge_2010s_present/0?institutionId=1465.