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Information Disorder

Mis - Dis - Mal - information disorder!

Recently, in the media it has been reported that the term Fake News was becoming meaningless and that it will take 50 years to truly unravel what is now being termed ‘online information disorder’. Fake news is now used to describe anything reported that someone didn’t like.  However, fake news still has everyone’s attention and it can be difficult telling the truth from fiction. 

Now not just the content of a message can be confusing, we have an added complexity, the online world itself, and how it can be used to spread misinformation. This is due to algorithms, SEO, data mining, memes, doxxing, fake imagery (deep fakes images and videos), fake websites, fake people, troll farms, echo chambers, filter bubbles and even AI bots pretending to be people.

There are 3 types of information disorders, contributing to the Fake News, which are differentiated by harm or falseness. This is outlined in the Council of Europe research  paper INFORMATION DISORDER: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policy making as: Misinformation, Disinformation and Malinformation.

What can we do about it?

Understand the Information
Disorder Elements

The Agent. Who are the people that created, produced and distributed the information. Also consider the Agent’s motivation for the release.

The Message. What is tmessage? What format did it the message take? What is the message’s characteristics.

The Interpreter. When the message was received how could it be interpreted? 

Check the
'Agent' Hints

Is it fake? Look at where it comes from. Often agents/sources will try to mimic legitimate and trusted websites.

  • Is it from an official of unoffical source?
  • Is it human, automated response of a bot? 

The website name (isit spoofing a real site?) The domain i.e. .org/.com ( is it different?) The ‘about us’ section (search the details) .

Check the author or ‘about us’ section. If you are unsure ask a teacher or your schools Cyber Safety Champion!

Is the author named on the page? 

  • Is it up to date and current? 
  • Are they a credible source? 
  • Are their qualifications real or fake?

What is the source’s motivation? 

  • Financial? Political? Social? Pyschological? 

Check the
'Message' Hints

What is the purpose and objectivity of the information. Are they trying to sell you something, convince you of something?

Are traditional news channels also report ing, repost ing or following? Reposting something does not mean it’s real. Google the same headline and see if some one has already debunked it

Do multiple Google searches. Include keywords such as hoax.

  • Is it branded? an imposter brand? or an individual or group? 
  • Check any images on Reverse google images to see where they come up.
  • Look for experts online with different opinions.
  • Check out a library and a few books.
  • Ask a teacher or a librarian!

What is the accuracy of the content? 

  •  Misleading, Manipulated, or fabricated? 
  • Look for muliple sources are the referencing the same source? 

Check the 'Interpretor' Hints!

You need to look at the audience and also understand that the message may be interpreted in different context.  The individual will  number of characteristics of the group or individuals characteristics such as social demographic.  

What can I do?

Some simple handy hits on Fake News

Class Lesson Plans - Online

Lesson Plans from the eSafety Commissioner for Critical Thinking, Empathy, Respect, Resilience and Responsibility. 

Lesson plans to educate young people around inaccurate and pervasive information that they might come across online.

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