Disinformation and Misinformation 101: Definitions

This blog post, written by members of the Library's Information Integrity Team, is part of a new series that covers disinformation and other related subjects. The goal is to help create a well-informed citizenry of active participants who shape our world.

DISINFORMATION is false information created and spread purposefully to deceive people for financial gain, for political power, to create chaos or confusion, or for satire. It can take the form of an outright lie, a photo taken out of context leading the viewer to a false conclusion, a doctored image, or a video showing someone saying something they never actually said (called a “deep fake”).

MISINFORMATION is false information spread unknowingly by me or you. For example, when I hit “share” on a post that is disinformation, I am creating misinformation—even if I think it is true or I don’t mean any harm.

Common Types of Disinformation/Misinformation


Using logos or other branding to fool people into thinking the information is from a trusted news site or organization.


Presenting information in a misleading way, such as presenting a comment as fact.


When content is shown in a false context, such as when an old photograph is used to imply that it accurately represents a current event.


Information that the creator makes up and knows to be false. 


When content is changed intentionally to create a false conclusion different than its original message. Altered photographs or videos are examples.


Presenting false but funny stories as truth, such as in The Onion. The creator may not have intentionally meant to fool people, but these stories are sometimes spread by people who think they're true.

Need to know: More terms and definitions


A set of skills that allows an individual to access, analyze, evaluate, and create messages in a variety of forms.


Accepting information that reinforces an existing belief or attitude, and/or discounts opposing ideas.


Drive YouTube recommendations, Facebook ads, or a product on Amazon.com based on prior search results and can result in a filter bubble (see below). Algorithms keep you using the app or website with the purpose of showing more advertisements and driving revenue.


What happens when we see only information that aligns with our existing viewpoints and we find ourselves in a “bubble” that isolates us from information and opinions different from our own.


A hyperlink in the form of enticing text, image, or headline, designed to get people to click on it, often leading to dubious or disappointing content (such as, “The ten weirdest . . . “or “you wouldn’t believe what she looks like now“).


A computer program on the internet that performs repetitive tasks, often simulating human behavior such as “liking” specific posts or stories, driving their reach and influence.


"To harass, criticize, or antagonize (someone) especially by provocatively disparaging or mocking public statements, postings, or acts” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). A troll is a “a person who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content.”


The automated creation, modification, or manipulation of data and content by AI (artificial intelligence) to mislead, change, or lie about the original content or meaning. Deep Fakes are an example of synthetic media.

For more information