“Misinformation” and “disinformation” are similar terms with different meanings, but they are frequently confused or used interchangeably. Both entail the spread of false information, while the difference consists in the motive and intention of the responsible parties. “Misinformation” is the spread of false information by someone who sincerely believes it, or trusts in its veracity. “Disinformation” is a deliberate attempt to mislead an audience by manipulating facts, distorting the details of a story, or simply fabricating them from scratch.
The best way to test the validity of information is to do a fact check. If information that you find online seems suspicious or non-credible, use a search engine to investigate the topic. Is more than one credible source reporting the same information? If so, does context affect the validity of the way it has been presented? Are there important details which have been omitted by other sources? Misinformation is not always simple: while it can encompass blatant falsehoods, it also includes small and sometimes subtle distortions of the truth.
If you can only find one source or the claim is mainly repeated by suspicious or non-credible sources, chances are good that the information is either wholly false or at least inaccurate. If you are still unsure whether the information you found is true, you can help to stop the spread of misinformation across the Internet by refusing to repeat it.
In many cases, misinformation begins as disinformation deliberately spread by actors who may use bots and malicious code to increase their reach. But once it is out in the open, it spreads for the same reason any kind of information spreads: through word of mouth and social interactions, whether in real life or online. Read more about the impact of misinformation.
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Digital3PC.com is an independent platform that brings together the best minds from tech, government, research, and academia to shape the future of cybersecurity policy and offer best practice solutions when responding to cyber threats. The most common access point for malware spread, data breaches, IP theft, election meddling, disinformation campaigns, and cyberwarfare is malicious third-party code (3PC) that makes its way into our websites, apps, and IoT devices. The compromise of the digital ecosystem erodes user trust and the credibility of media organizations, and undermines the integrity of our democracy, economy, and public safety.