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Disinformation vs misinformation

  • Disinformation and misinformation are two words that are close in spelling and pronunciation and may be considered confusables. Confusables is a catch-all term for words that are often misused or confused; there are many confusing words in the English language that may be easily confused for each other in spoken English and written English. Two words or more than two words, even if they are common words, may be confused because they are similar in spelling, similar in pronunciation, or similar in meaning. These commonly confused words may be pronounced the same way or pronounced differently or may be spelled the same way or spelled differently, or may have different meanings or have almost different meanings; they may be homophones, homonyms, heteronyms, homographs, words that have a similar spelling, or words that have a similar meaning. Sometimes, confusables are word constructions that are not proper English words. Confusables often confound native speakers of English, and they may be difficult for ESL students and those learning English to understand. Confusables are misspelled, misused words that have a different meaning from one another and may be nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, or any other part of speech. Spelling rules in English are not dependable; there are many exceptions. Often, the best procedure to learn new words and commonly misused words and commonly confused words in English is to make word lists of English words for the learner to study to understand the difference in spelling and meaning. To learn new words in the English language, one must not only study a spelling words list, one must know the meaning of words in one’s vocabulary word list. It is also helpful to memorize how to correctly pronounce words and to know the etymology of new words or where they are derived from. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake in English vocabulary, so do not rely on spell check but instead, learn to spell and learn the definitions of words. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a confusable in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Confusables are often used in wordplay like puns. We will examine the different meanings of the confusables disinformation and misinformation, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

     

    Disinformation consists of deliberately false facts, usually propagated by governments, political factions, or industries. Disinformation is used to obscure the truth and to influence popular opinion. Disinformation is dangerous because it is difficult to identify as false and is often spread through supposedly trustworthy sources; disinformation is a type of propaganda that is used with malice to obscure the truth and mislead the listener. The person spreading disinformation knows that he is disseminating information that is incorrect. The word disinformation is derived from the Russian word coined in the 1940s, dezinformatsiya, which means false information that is meant to mislead the listener.

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    Misinformation also refers to false facts, but the dissemination of these false facts is unintentional. The one passing on misinformation believes he is telling the truth; he is simply in error, he is not attempting to obscure the truth. The word misinformation dates to the 1500s.

    Examples

    President Joe Biden said social media companies like Facebook where disinformation related to the Covid-19 crisis and vaccinations has proliferated are “killing people” as the nation sees a rise in infections among unvaccinated Americans. (Independent)

    Political actors are increasingly outsourcing their disinformation work to third-party PR and marketing firms and using AI-generated profile pictures. (Brookings Institution)

    Further, if there were consistent assumptions used across all of the companies, then there is a risk that the reporting requirements would be perpetuating widespread systemic misinformation in the financial markets to the detriment of investors. (Forbes)

    Misinformation should always be corrected but the more complex the issue the more difficult it is to deal with in the confines of social media and so you should seek to take the conversation offline where possible. (Irish News)


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