Information Disorder

A report published today by the Council of Europe examines the way in which dis-information campaigns have become widespread and, heavily relying on social media, contribute to a global media environment of information disorder. post

The authors identify three different types of “information disorder”: mis-information, when false information is shared, but no harm is meant; dis-information, when false information is knowingly shared to cause harm; and mal-information, when genuine information is shared to cause harm, often by making public information designed to stay private. post

They actively refrain from using the term “fake news”, arguing that it fails to describe the complexity of the “information pollution” phenomenon, and that it is being used by politicians around the world to describe news that they find disagreeable.

We are witnessing information pollution at a global scale; a complex web of motivations for creating, disseminating and consuming these ‘polluted’ messages; a myriad of content types and techniques for amplifying content; innumerable platforms hosting and reproducing this content; and breakneck speeds of communication between trusted peers. pdf


False. Mis-information not created with the intention of causing harm. - false connection - misleading content

Harmful. Mal-information based on reality, used to inflict harm on a person, organization or country. - leaks - harassment - hate speech

False and Harmful. Dis-information deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organization or country. - false context - imposter content - manipulated content - fabricated content.


We need to understand the ritualistic function of communication. Rather than simply thinking about communication as the transmission of information from one person to another, we must recognize that communication plays a fundamental role in representing shared beliefs. It is not just information, but drama, a portrayal of the contending forces in the world.


Widely accessible, cheap and sophisticated editing and publishing technology has made it easier than ever for anyone to create and distribute content.

Information consumption, which was once private, has become public because of social media.

The speed at which information is disseminated has been supercharged by an accelerated news cycle and mobile handsets.

Information is passed in real-time between trusted peers, and any piece of information is far less likely to be challenged.


These technology platforms are not neutral communication pipelines. They cannot be, as they are inherently social, driven by billions of humans sharing words, images, videos and memes that affirm their positions in their own real-life social networks.


Agent. Who were the ‘agents’ that created, produced and distributed the example, and what was their motivation?

Message. What type of message was it? What format did it take? What were the characteristics?

Interpreter. When the message was received by someone, how did they interpret the message? What action, if any, did they take?


Lakoff distinguishes two different kinds of reason: ‘False reason’ and ‘real reason.’ False reason, he says, ‘sees reason as fully conscious, as literal, disembodied, yet somehow fitting the world directly, and working not via frame-based, metaphorical, narrative and emotional logic, but via the logic of logicians alone.’ Real reason, alternatively, is an unconscious thought that ‘arises from embodied metaphors.’


Creation. The message is created.

Production. The message is turned into a media product.

Distribution. The message is distributed or made public.


The role of the mainstream media as agents in amplifying fabricated or misleading content is crucial to understanding information disorder. Fact-checking has always been fundamental to quality journalism, but the techniques used by hoaxers and those attempting to disseminate dis-information have never been this sophisticated.

With newsrooms increasingly relying on the social web for story ideas and content, forensic verification skills and the ability to identify networks of fabricated news websites and bots is more important than ever before.


In all the fuss over misinformation, one crucial aspect is ignored: the way people now perform their relationship with news to win the approval of others. guardian