Abstract

Prototypical instances of disinformation include deceptive advertising (in business and in politics), government propaganda, doctored photographs, forged documents, fake maps, internet frauds, fake websites, and manipulated Wikipedia entries. Disinformation can cause significant harm if people are misled by it. In order to address this critical threat to information quality, we first need to understand exactly what disinformation is. This paper surveys the various analyses of this concept that have been proposed by information scientists and philosophers (most notably, Luciano Floridi). It argues that these analyses are either too broad (that is, that they include things that are not disinformation), or too narrow (they exclude things that are disinformation), or both. Indeed, several of these analyses exclude important forms of disinformation, such as true disinformation, visual disinformation, side-effect disinformation, and adaptive disinformation. After considering the shortcomings of these analyses, the paper argues that disinformation is misleading information that has the function of misleading. Finally, in addition to responding to Floridi’s claim that such a precise analysis of disinformation is not necessary, it briefly discusses how this analysis can help us develop techniques for detecting disinformation and policies for deterring its spread.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0682
Print ISSN
0024-2594
Pages
pp. 401-426
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-17
Open Access
No
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