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Are you ready to read between the lines?

webcard for library month, blue background, tag line written in white

Oct 12, 2022

Understanding the difference between misinformation and disinformation is important for preventing their spread.  

When we talk about misinformation it is usually incorrect, incomplete, vague information that is being circulated without the intent to mislead users. People will disseminate misinformation because it is information that agrees with their beliefs. Emotions often come first, well before the need to confirm if the information is really true or not. 

Disinformation on the other hand is when false information is used on purpose. It is an intentional distortion of the information with malicious intent.  

All of this is nothing new.

Disinformation has always been around.

Propaganda in time of war, hoaxes or fake news, they all have been used throughout history. But the Internet, and to a greater extent social media, helped to make this a mainstream phenomenon. The 2016 US Presidential election campaign is where we saw the term "fake news" become a household name. The speed at which the information is spreading nowadays makes it hard to contain and even if the information is retracted later on, the damage is done. Just remember the whole autism and vaccines saga.  

Misinformation and disinformation can take many forms.  

We are all familiar with click-bait on the Internet, where you see an appealing title on which you click, and it will bring you to something misleading. It's called a false connection. 

 We have satire or parody that has no intention to harm, but can fool people into thinking it's true.  

Misleading content is the misleading use of information to frame an issue or an individual. There is false context, when you present true information with false contextual information.  

We are familiar with imposters, like fraud, because it will impersonate a brand, an organization we trust. Photoshopping a picture to use in a setting that has nothing to do with the original image is called manipulated content. Lastly, we have fabricated content which is100% false info, like the deepfakes we see more and more. 

We get bombarded with information in our everyday life and we are all guilty of sharing something we didn't really take the time to read. We do so because it's fast, easy and often it is about a topic we deeply believe in. We need to take a minute and think about what we are about to share. Where does it come from? What is the source? Can this information be corroborated by a reliable source?  

We all have a role to play in stopping the spread of misinformation and disinformation.  

Are you ready to read between the lines? 


Commandeering the word "Freedom"

A great example occurred here in Ottawa. In January 2022, an attack/occupation on Ottawa was orchestrated by an activity called "Freedom Convoy". It was about anything but FREEDOM, but brilliantly named. Money from foreign powers funded under-employed and uneducated people to weaponize everyday items such as big rig trucks, horns, BBQ implements, gasoline, children, etc and occupy Canada's capital. This was largely due to the use of the word FREEDOM in the name. FREEDOM is a cherished concept and a very powerful word. The FREEDOM Convoy initially attracted great support and garnered worldwide publicity because Canada is known worldwide as one of the most FREE countries in the world. If FREEDOM was in trouble in Canada, others in the world could only tremble in fear what would be in store for them. As noted above, many people outside Ottawa did not have time to find out what was really happening behind headlines about the FREEDOM Convoy. They saw the word FREEDOM and naturally commiserated with the brilliant misinformation coming from the FREEDOM Convoy that FREEDOM in Canada was somehow in jeopardy. Their concerns lent support to the attackers and gave a veneer of legitimacy. All because of the power of the word FREEDOM. Is there a term within the disciplines of misinformation or advertising for so successfully commandeering a word?