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Welcome to the Library: Information Disorder


Disinformation, malinformation, and misinformation (information disorder, “fake news”) have become particular problems in the current information ecosystem we find ourselves in, as you are probably aware. But remember that determining the truthfulness of an information source is not the only goal.  We also need to determine extensive bias or poor research methods in sources as well, which do not necessarily mean these sources were created to confuse or push false information. But making sure it is not disinformation is a good place to start.

You will hone these skills and ways of thinking about information throughout your academic and professional careers, but we need to start now.  Your librarians and professors are here to help you determine quality information so you make good business decisions, develop excellent policy positions, and learn well within your discipline and about the wider world.

Please read through the information below.

Understanding Information Disorder

As Claire Wordle and Hossein Derakshan write in the UNESCO handbook Journalism, ‘Fake News’ & Disinformation, there exists a spectrum of incorrect information. While the term "fake news" has been used to describe this concept, the politicization of the phrase has diminished its usefulness in helping us evaluate information. Instead, the term "information disorder" helps us categorize and better understand the various formats of false information and its intended impact on its audience.

Journalists, librarians, and academics identify the types of information disorder:

  • Misinformation: Information that is false but not created with the intention of causing harm
  • Disinformation: Information that is false and deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organization or country
  • Malinformation: Information that is based on reality, used to inflict harm on a person, social group, organization or country.

Types of Information Disorder Venn Diagram

Image Credit: 3 Types of Information Disorder by Claire Wardle & Hossein Derakshan, 2017, is available under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 license

Forms of Information Disorder

Not all false information is harmful or "bad."  The spectrum of information disorder includes satire, parody, and even click-bait headlines and memes.

The misinformation tracking organization First Draft identifies seven common forms of information disorder and places them on a spectrum representing harm to the public:

  1. Satire or parody (example: Onion article, "Wealthy Teen Nearly Experiences Consequence")
  2. False connection (example: clickbait headlines)
  3. MIsleading content (example: selective use of statistics)
  4. False content (example: "California bans Hunt's Manwich sauce")
  5. Imposter content (example: imposter site)
  6. Manipulated content (example: deepfakes)
  7. Fabricated content (example: ads encouraging voting byy SMS)



Seven Common Forms of Information Disorder

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  • Last Updated: Sep 22, 2021 9:50 AM
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