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Informed Civic Engagement Resource Guide: Fake News, Misinformation & Disinformation

"Read before you retweet. Remind yourself that there are human beings in the picture." - Danielle Citron

Sorting through the vast amount of information created and shared online is challenging even for experts. This page defines terms including and related to "fake news" while offering resources and information to avoid both reading and sharing it. The more aware you are of what false information is and how it spreads, the better you will be at avoiding it yourself - and helping your friends and family do the same.

Misinformation, Disinformation, and Fake News: What's the difference?

Everyone has heard the term "fake news" - but do you know what it really means? Do you know the difference between misinformation and disinformation? Understanding the various ways that false information is shared, and the motives and appeal behind it, is important in avoiding and combating it. 

Definitions of terms associated with false information
Term Definition Source
misinformation “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” Dictionary.com
disinformation

“deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.”

Dictionary.com
fake news  "purposefully crafted, sensational, emotionally charged, misleading or totally fabricated information that mimics the form of mainstream news"  Fake News: understanding media and misinformation in the digital age (back cover)

Deepfakes

Deepfakes are a new and particularly challenging type of audio, video, or image disinformation, generally used in malicious ways. They have the potential to rapidly spread false words and actions to a global audience, and can be extremely difficult to distinguish from real content. 

What are deepfakes? Quoting from Merriam-Webster, "The term deepfake is typically used to refer to a video that has been edited using an algorithm to replace the person in the original video with someone else (especially a public figure) in a way that makes the video look authentic." 

Suggested readings to understand deepfake technology: 

Test yourself and learn to spot deepfake photos:

Tools for Taking Action

Learn how to combat the problem of fake news, misinformation & disinformation! Fact-check, evaluate, and stop the spread using the tools below.

Use Fact-Checking Sites

Learn and Practice Evaluation Skills

CTRL-F, a project from Canadian nonprofit CIVIX, is an extension of the SIFT Method (more below). The guide provides short videos and activities which can help you pick up three fundamental skills.

The SIFT method by Mike Caulfield provides four quick moves you can do when evaluating an online source. Learn more about using the SIFT method to sort fact from fiction related to COVID-19 at Sifting Through the Coronavirus Pandemic.