Defining “Disinformation”

What are dis- and misinformation? What about propaganda and “fake news?” How are researchers and activists defining these terms, and how are those definitions evolving? This introductory literature review addresses both contemporary and historical examples of disinformation and misinformation in mass media, and discusses the importance of a unified set of definitions in the social sciences. 

Live Research Review

What are dis- and misinformation? What about propaganda and “fake news?” How are researchers and activists defining these terms, and how are those definitions evolving? This introductory research review discusses the importance of a unified set of definitions in the social sciences.

Teaching & Learning

Explore course modules, handouts, teaching tools and syllabi about dis- and misinformation.

Latest News on Defining "Disinformation"

Propaganda analysis has long focused on revealing the rhetorical tricks and hidden special interests behind persuasion campaigns. But what are critics to do when propaganda is obvious? In the late 1930s the Institute for Propaganda Analysis faced this question while investigating the public politicking of A&P, then the largest retailer in the United States. While […]

Many of the stories that pundits, journalists, and scholars tell about disinformation begin with the 2016 US presidential election and focus on the role of social media platforms in spreading and generating false content. At their worst, these narratives imply that in the past, everyone shared the same sense of what was true and what […]

This special issue is designed to place our contemporary post-truth impasse in historical perspective. Drawing comparisons to the Propaganda Analysis research paradigm of the Interwar years, this essay and issue call attention to historical similarities between patterns in mass communication research then and now. The hope is that contemporary misinformation studies scholars can learn from […]

When China-linked networks of social media bots and trolls appeared on the global disinformation scene in 2019, most analysts concluded that their impact and reach were fairly limited, particularly in terms of engagement by real users and relative to more sophisticated actors in this realm, like the Russian regime. As many China watchers anticipated, that […]

Sometimes, when I look at the outlet where I insert my computer charger, I can see a sorrowful face looking back at me: two thin slits for eyes and a big, dour, downturned arc of a mouth, surprised and dismayed at its throatful of electricity. There’s a term for the human tendency to see faces […]

Featured Scholars

Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Colorado State University
Harvard Kennedy School, Technology and Social Change Research Project