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Fake News and Disinformation

This is a guide to discerning fake news, incorrect information, and deliberately presented false information in media, print, and social media.

Fake News vs Disinformation vs Misinformation

We live in a digital age where information is at our fingertips 24/7, and the internet offers a level of anonymity that makes it easy to spread false news and information, whether accidentally or deliberately.

Fake news refers to distorted and sometimes falsified reports with the intention to mislead. The concept originally referred specifically to political reports, but has now expanded to generally mean intentionally inaccurate information.

! Note !: Journalists can report on a story that naturally develops; sometimes in the process the information changes. That is not fake news. A journalistic story has the intention of providing the most accurate information available at that time. Fake News intends to mislead.

Terms as defined by the Oxford Learner's Dictionary:

  • Fake news - false reports of events, written and read on websites
  • Disinformation - false information that is given deliberately
  • Misinformation - the act of giving wrong information about something

Other related terms:

  • Deepfake - a video of a person in which their appearance has been digitally altered so that they look like somebody else
  • Propaganda - ideas or statements that may be false or present only one side of an argument that are used in order to gain support for a political leader, party, etc.
  • Clickbait - material put on the internet in order to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page

7 Types of Mis- and Disinformation

7 Types of Mis- and Disinformation infographic

Wardle, Claire. "Understanding information disorder." First Draft News, 22 Sept 2020,

7 Types of Mis- and Disinformation:

From lowest to highest:

  1. Satire or parody
    No intention to cause harm but has potential to fool.
  2. False connection
    When headlines, visuals, or captions don't support the content.
  3. Misleading content
    Misleading use of information to frame an issue or individual.
  4. False context
    When genuine content is shared with false contextual information.
  5. Imposter content
    When genuine sources are impersonated.
  6. Manipulated content
    When genuine information or imagery is manipulated to deceive.
  7. Fabricated content
    New content that is 100% false, made to deceive and do harm.

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Creative Commons License

This guide was created by Ontario Tech Libraries and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 License, except where otherwise noted.

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