What’s the difference, and does it even matter?
Misinformation is when somebody shares inaccurate information without knowing it’s inaccurate. Disinformation (sometimes referred to as fake news) is when someone deliberately shares information that is wrong in order to mislead people. Both are harmful, but they also demand different solutions – which is why online investigators like us need to examine falsehoods properly when we encounter them.
Media literacy, for example, might help someone who accidentally shared false information from doing it a second time. But media literacy isn’t going to stop an organisation that is deliberately trying to use disinformation to alter how people would vote in an election.
Analysing the authenticity of online activity helps us establish whether real people or bots have been deployed to try and manipulate conversation online, and work out whether it’s somebody who has legitimately misunderstood or misinterpreted something, or a bot or bot network built by a company that’s being paid to be deliberately false.
While fact checking assesses the content itself for accuracy, at Valent we focus on the way information is distributed on social media. Much of our work involves detecting fake accounts and analysing the way they operate together to form networks. This allows us to use AI to predict their actions and provide options to respond.
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