Types of Disinformation Online

In public discussions, the entire topic is summarised with the term 'fake news'. Reporters Without Borders avoids this term for two reasons: On one hand, states all over the world misuse the term 'fake news' to discredit true journalism or take legal action in order to censor critical information on the internet. On the other hand, the broad term is inappropriate in addressing the complex topic in its entirety.

To make the different kinds of disinformation that appears on the internet clear, we refer to the useful differentiation of Claire Wardle by First Draft News.

  • Satire or Parody: No intention to cause harm, but has the potential to fool.
  • False Connection: Headlines, visuals, and captions don't support the content.
  • Misleading Content: Misleading use of information to frame an issue or individual.
  • False Context: Genuine content is shared with false contextual information.
  • Imposter Content: Genuine sources are impersonated.
  • Manipulated Content: Genuine information or imagery is manipulated to deceive.
  • Fabricated Content: New Content is entirely false, designed to deceive and do harm.


It becomes obvious then that the question of whether the information is 'true' or 'false' is not enough to be able to distinguish 'trustworthy' news from 'malicious' news. More important is the intention of the authors behind a story: Do they want to inform or deceive the audience?

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