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Communication Resources

A resource guide for Communication

Introduction

Misleading and false information in the political sphere is not new, but its reach into our daily lives has created a challenging storm of information that each of us must now navigate. Political strategists, social media, and click-bait headlines have fogged the lines between opinion and evidence, unfortunately leaving us vulnerable to deceptive practices. This guide explores the ways misleading information is presented, our vulnerabilities to disinformation, and practical tools for quickly evaluating its credibility.

What Is Disinformation?

We like the definitions from the News Literacy Project with the caveat that it's often impossible to determine the intent behind information:

Disinformation: A subset of misinformation that is deliberately created or shared with the intention to misinform and mislead others, usually to achieve a desired ideological, political or financial result.

Misinformation:  Information that is misleading, erroneous or false. Misinformation is generally shared — and sometimes created — by people who are unaware that it’s inaccurate. This is the best term to use when the intent of the creator or sharer is unknown. An EU civil rights organization provides more detail about the differences in Misinformation vs. Disinformation: Definition and Examples.

Other useful terms:

Clickbait: something (often a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest. (Merriam Webster). Two university professors suggest that Social Media Companies Should Ditch Clickbait and Compete Over Trustworthiness.

Conspiracy Theory: a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators. (Merriam Webster) The European Commission has created this great guide to Identifying Conspiracy Theories.

Meme: an idea, behavior, style, or image that is spread via the Internet, often through social media platforms. (Wikipedia). Learn more with this article, How Memes Became a Major Vehicle for Misinformation.

Propaganda: uses false or misleading information to manipulate the opinions and attitudes of a targeted audience. (Encyclopedia of Political Communication). 

How to Understand Misinformation, Disinformation and Malinformation