Countering Fake News with Knowledge

Information on Misinformation, Disinformation, and Malinformation

As news quickly propagates through the different online social media platforms without facing many barriers, fake news leads to an uninformed society. The notion of fake news is not novel, but social networks’ easy spreading makes them more potent nowadays than ever before. Additionally, fake news can either be harmless due to poor research or malicious targeting crowd manipulation. While there is no immediate and effective answer to counter fake news dissemination, addressing the general lack of awareness on fake news classifications and forms can be a powerful weapon. 

Fake news disseminated by humans and machines (using bots) focuses on spreading rumours, spam, false information, and slander across digital platforms and social media [1]. However, humans post and share this news as they reach them, (un)intentionally spreading fake information. The intention behind creating and disseminating fake news differs based on three categories, currently still under regulation [2]:

  • Misinformation: the news content is false, but the author had no specific intention or awareness of it being false when disseminating;
  • Disinformation: the news content is false, and the author disseminated it aware of its fraudulent nature;
  • Malinformation: the news content is correct but published and disseminated with a malicious intention to create harm.

Across these three categories, there are seven primary forms of fake news. We present them in ascending order based on the level of intention to spread fake content and create harm:

Satire or parody is a form of art created to emphasise an opinion or a point of view by resorting to humour. This type of humorous content does not intend to cause harm but is a potential source of deception [2].

False connection refers to news whose cover (caption or image) has no relation to the content. A typical example is clickbait used on digital platforms to attract users’ attention through catchy titles and acquire more views [2]. Figure 1 (A) provides an example of this form of fake news. A striking image and an appealing title increase the number of people opening the news, although they could feel defrauded after doing it.

Misleading content refers to all news or headlines created to misinform or distract the readers. The main goal of misleading content news is to influence the readers’ point of view to form an opinion, get confused, or disagree on a particular subject [2], [3]. 

False context refers to reorganised genuine news content to attract views or solve other purposes [2], [3]. Figure 1(B) provides a specific example of an accurate image published in a completely different context of a protest against immigration policies.

Imposter content refers to false content manipulated from trustworthy sources [3]. For example, it includes cut and modified videos to a version that disseminates an imposter message. 

Manipulated content is fake content often found in photographs or videos [2], [3] modified to deceive. Figure 1(C) illustrates a manipulated photo (on the right) besides the original (on the left).

Fabricated content refers to synthetic content created to deceive or cause harm [2], [3] following a specific purpose. Figure 1 (D) shows an example of fabricated content released and spread across several online platforms before the USA presidential elections with a strong political motivation. 

Figure 1 – Examples of different forms of fake news 

There is no comprehensive strategy to counter and legislate the wide variety of fake news and its means of dissemination. It is thus of utmost importance to raise awareness on these topics. In the absence of a technological solution to detect and eliminate fake news publication in all languages, stopping the chain of human dissemination could prevent misinformation. Unfortunately, it is challenging to evaluate and regulate human intentions regarding disinformation and malinformation. Therefore, it is fundamental that audiences become critical thinkers when assessing the motivations behind news creation. 

The MOGPlay Business Case, developed by MOG Technologies in the scope of the ARTICONF project, addresses the topic of fake news in a preventive manner. MOGPlay aims to provide a decentralised news platform to citizens for producing journalistic media content supported by democratic strategies to prevent disinformation or malinformation. To avoid false context, imposter, manipulated or fabricated news, for example, MOGPlay only enables live streams from citizens residing in specific areas where an event of interest occurs. Additionally, the MOGplay includes a classification mechanism open to all registered users to evaluate and rate the impact, trustiness, and informative levels of a produced content.

The ARTICONF crowd journalism business case aims to close the gap between journalistic production and citizens’ distrust by engaging them in content production and countering fake news along the production chain.

Further information on the crowd Journalism use case implemented by MOGPlay is available at: 

[1] X. Zhang and A. A. Ghorbani, “An overview of online fake news: Characterization, detection, and discussion,” Inf. Process. Manag., vol. 57, no. 2, p. 102025, 2020, doi: 10.1016/j.ipm.2019.03.004.

[2] C. Wardle, “The Need for Smarter Definitions and Practical, Timely Empirical Research on Information Disorder,” Digit. Journal., vol. 6, no. 8, pp. 951–963, 2018, doi: 10.1080/21670811.2018.1502047.

[3] J. Posetti et al., UNESCO: Journalism, “Fake News” & Disinformation. 2018.

This blog post was written by MOG Technologies team in November 2021.

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