The problem of disinformation: A critical approach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The term disinformation is generally used to refer to information that is false and harmful, by contrast with misinformation (false but harmless) and malinformation (harmful but true); disinformation is also generally understood to involve coordination and to be intentionally false and/or harmful. However, particular studies rarely apply all these criteria when discussing cases. Doing so would involve applying at least three distinct problem framings: an epistemic framing to detect that a proposition in circulation is false, a behavioural framing to detect the coordinated efforts at communicating that proposition, and a security framing to identify threats or risks of harm attendant on widespread belief in the proposition. As for the question of intentionality, different kinds of clues can be picked up within each framing, although none alone is likely to be conclusive. Yet particular studies tend to centre on or prioritise a single framing. Many today aim to make policy recommendations about combatting disinformation, and they prioritise security concerns over the demands of epistemic diligence. This carries a real risk of disinformation research being ‘weaponised’ against inconvenient truths. Against combative approaches, this article argues for a critical approach which recognizes the importance of epistemic diligence and transparency about normative assumptions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Epistemology
Early online date20 May 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 May 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • disinformation
  • misinformation
  • malinformation
  • epistemic diligence

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