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It’s that time of year when various publications decide their “…” of the year. And in the case of dictionaries it’s the word of the year. Dictionary.com has decided that its word of the year for 2018 is “misinformation”. Which, ironically, isn’t misinformation.
When Disinformation Becomes Misinformation
Misinformation is a word that, according to Dictionary.com, has been around since the 1500s. However, its use has spread in recent years thanks to the spread of misinformation being disseminated via biased news sources and social media users.
Dictionary.com defines misinformation as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” Which separates it from disinformation, which is described as “deliberately misleading or biased information”.
While disinformation is the source of a lot of issues we’re now seeing in society, misinformation is making things worse. And this is mainly because social media users share things without checking the veracity of the information first.
This blind spreading of misinformation has had some real-life consequences. Elections have been influenced by people believing what they read. People’s health has been affected by scare stories. And individuals have been targeted over rumors started online.
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) November 26, 2018
This is why Dictionary.com has chosen misinformation as its word of the year. And why we all, each and every one of us, needs to do better in this area. It doesn’t take long to check facts before reposting, retweeting, or sharing something you want to be true.
How to Stop the Spread of Misinformation
Dictionary.com’s runners-up include “representation,” as in the representation of ethnic minorities, “self-made,” as in Kendal Jenner being a self-made billionaire, and “backlash,” as in the celebrity of the day experiencing a backlash over something they said.
In terms of misinformation it’s up to us to plot its downfall. Which unfortunately requires a little homework. First, teach yourself how to spot fake news. Next, bookmark these unbiased fact-checking websites. And finally, learn to trust your instincts!
Image Credit: John Davey/Flickr