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disinformation

[ dis-in-fer-mey-shuhn, dis-in- ]
/ dɪsˌɪn fərˈmeɪ ʃən, ˌdɪs ɪn- /
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noun
false information, as about a country's military strength or plans, disseminated by a government or intelligence agency in a hostile act of tactical political subversion: Soviet disinformation drove a wedge between the United States and its Indonesian allies.
deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda: Special interest groups muddied the waters of the debate, spreading disinformation on social media.
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Compare misinformation.

Origin of disinformation

First recorded in 1965–70; dis-1 + information, as translation of Russian dezinformátsiya, from French désinform(er) “to misinform” + Russian -atsiya (ultimately from Latin -ātiō; see -ation)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

DISINFORMATION VS. MISINFORMATION

What's the difference between disinformation and misinformation?

Disinformation refers to false information that’s spread with the specific intent of misleading or deceiving people. Misinformation more generally refers to false information, regardless of whether or not it’s intended to mislead or deceive people.

Due to their similarity, the terms are sometimes used in overlapping ways. All disinformation is misinformation, but not all misinformation is disinformation. Disinformation is the more specific of the two because it always implies that the false information is being provided or spread on purpose.

Disinformation is especially used in the context of large-scale deception, such as a disinformation campaign by a government that targets the population of another country. Misinformation can be spread with the intent to trick people or just because someone incorrectly thinks it’s true.

This distinction can also be seen in the difference between their verb forms, disinform and misinform. Disinform, which is much less commonly used, means to intentionally provide or spread false information. To misinform someone is to provide them with wrong information, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it was intentional.

One way to remember the difference between disinformation and misinformation is to remember that disinformation is not just false but dishonest, while misinformation can be a mistake.

Here’s an example of disinformation and misinformation used correctly in a sentence.

Example: The intelligence report concluded that the rumors spread prior to the election were not simply the result of misinformation but rather of coordinated disinformation by a foreign power.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between disinformation and misinformation.

Quiz yourself on disinformation vs. misinformation!

Should disinformation or misinformation be used in the following sentence?

The government spread _____ about the location of their army in hopes of tricking the enemy.

How to use disinformation in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for disinformation

disinformation
/ (ˌdɪsɪnfəˈmeɪʃən) /

noun
false information intended to deceive or mislead
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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