Snopestionary: Misinformation vs. Disinformation

Both words refer to false information, but one type is more insidious than the other.

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Speak like an insider! Welcome to Snopes-tionary, where we’ll define a term or piece of fact-checking lingo that we use on the Snopes team. Have a term you want us to explain? Let us know.

Two words thrown around in the news these days are misinformation and disinformation. The two terms both refer to false information. However, what makes them different is that disinformation is when someone is knowingly spreading things that aren’t true.

Merriam-Webster defines misinformation as “incorrect or misleading information.”

The same dictionary defines disinformation as “false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.”

For example, when a Facebook friend shares a false meme without knowing it’s false, that’s a form of misinformation. However, when social media accounts knowingly disseminate falsehoods about COVID-19 to influence public discourse or policy, or a foreign country meddles in an election by pushing false or misleading news, that’s disinformation. 

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