Neptune Navigate Blog

Tips for online safety, security, and responsible digital citizenship for parents, kids, and families.

Misinformation and Disinformation: What’s The Difference?

December 17, 2021

Misinformation or Disinformation? Both words refer to wrong or incorrect information but the key word that separates them is intent. Let’s start with misinformation. Misinformation is when someone unknowingly spreads incorrect information without meaning to, oftentimes, believing the information is true. For example, you tell your coworker that the office meeting starts at 9am instead of 8am because you didn’t read the email carefully. Basically, there’s no intent to do harm, you’re just wrong. On the other hand, disinformation is consciously spreading misleading or biased information with the intent to deceive or manipulate a person or situation. With the spreading of disinformation, there is usually some unethical or unscrupulous motivation behind it. Going back to our example above, disinformation would be intentionally telling your coworker that the meeting started at 9am instead of 8am because you wanted to embarrass them or get them reprimanded by your boss. Misinformation and disinformation aren’t necessarily new terms; they’ve just taken on a whole new meaning because of technology. We’ve all seen how quickly information travels in the digital world. When true and accurate information spreads, we all can benefit, but when wrong information is spread it can have incredibly harmful consequences. Technology has afforded us access to a vast amount of information, yet we appear to be incapable, or unwilling to determine if the information we receive is accurate or not. Misinformation and disinformation run on supply and demand so if we truly want to address this issue, we need to examine our own contribution to the problem as information consumers. We can start by strengthening our own media literacy skills including the ability to analyze and evaluate information for reliability, validity, accuracy and authority. So before you hit the “share” or “send” button, stop and investigate the source of the information you’re receiving and passing along to others.