The Devil’s Advice: Disinformation Versus Misinformation: A short meta analysis


Now, while these two are not the same, they are both dangerous in the same way.  Misinformation, I might add, is an obstacle in the pursuit of happiness.

You could think about the principles of cause and effect to understand their differences better. 

I can get a little complicated, but I’ll do my best to make it accessible.


Editorially, disinformation can be traced back to the late eighteen-hundreds. It seems to have made its first appearance in print in The Cresset, a Medicine Lodge, Kansas newspaper, in which someone accuses the Sun City Delegation of “disseminating immense amounts of disinformation”.

Politically, as Ronald J. Rychlak alleges in his interviews with Romanian Soviet defector Ion Mihai Pacepa, the term was coined by Joseph Stalin in Soviet Russia. 


As the supposed Prince of Lies, I understand the power of perception. Humans act according to what they believe to be true; therefore, the most effective way to make them do anything is by managing what they believe and think. 

And that my awesome fleshy monkies is a notion you can find in the Bible. 

And yes, I’ll be only happy to talk more about that very shortly. 

According to Wikipedia, it appears that the word itself is a disinformation mechanism. Whilst it may be a translation of the Russian word dezinformatsiya, The KGB’s Dark Propaganda Department wanted it to have a French-sounding pronunciation to imply a western origin. 

Some science

It’s worth repeating that disinformation campaigns are deliberate attempts to obscure the truth, usually aimed at defending or advancing a political agenda. Religion is not different than politics in these regards.

The Devil Unbound: Disinformation vs Misinformation, A short meta analysis

Active measure disinformation campaigns are explicitly designed to manipulate public perception about critical social issues.

In their paper, Social Media, Political Polarization, and Political Disinformation: A Review of the Scientific Literature, Joshua A. Tucker of New York University and Andrew Guess of Princeton University, along with several other scientists, say the following about tactics for spreading disinformation.

There are numerous ways in which disinformation can be spread online. In this section, we consider four tactics: selective censorship; the manipulation of search rankings; hacking and releasing; and directly sharing disinformation on social media platforms. We begin with selective censorship, which involves removing some content from online platforms, while leaving other forms of content alone; King et al. (2013) document this type of activity using Chinese data. To the extent that this curated approach to removing some content serves to privilege disinformation that is not censored, it is a clear tactic for spreading disinformation.

I recommend reading the paper in its entirety as it provides understandings that, in context, show the true extent of the toxicity of disinformation. 

It might seem like government intelligence agencies are the only ones to carry out disinformation work; however, the distribution of false information happens through private citizens on a large scale. 

Think of that tinfoil-wearing uncle who continues to share three hundred unverified or debunked articles per hour about the link between vaccines and autism.

I’m sure you know someone on social media who repeatedly shares websites about the “truth” of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. 

Yes, both of these lovely folks have a very special place in my house, where they will suffer the consequences of their good intentions for eternity. 

And if you know someone like them you know that the origins of misinformation are difficult to trace, but the mechanism by which the lies spread is the individual, uneducated human. 

Disinformation is not a new concept, but technology has made this problem more significant and more deserving of proper attention in the last two decades.

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The Devil Unbound: Disinformation vs Misinformation
Photo by Cytonn Photography

The Difference

In contrast, misinformation is the direct result of false information propagated by disinformation agents. 

Misinformation is ultimately inaccurate or wrong information, but it does not result from the intention to deceive. 

Nevertheless, misinformation is the primary purpose of disinformation, and it almost always elicits doubt and fear in large portions of a given population. 

As stated before, the negative impact of misinformation is a potent threat to happiness, democracy, and civilisation. 

In A short guide to the history of ‘fake news’ and disinformation, A LEARNING MODULE FOR JOURNALISTS AND JOURNALISM EDUCATORS, Julie Posetti and Alice Matthews state the following. 

Misinformation, disinformation and propaganda have been features of human communication since at least the Roman times when Antony met Cleopatra. Octavian waged a propaganda campaign against Antony that was designed to smear his reputation. This took the form of “short, sharp slogans written upon coins in the style of archaic Tweets.” These slogans painted Antony as a womaniser and a drunk, implying he had become Cleopatra’s puppet, having been corrupted by his affair with her. Octavian became Augustus, the first Roman Emperor and “fake news had allowed Octavian to hack the republican system once and for all.”

I will also insist that you read this module in its entirety. Defeating misinformation starts with knowing how to use information resources properly.

The critical takeaway from this is that you can fight the spread of misinformation. And while there are numerous techniques to help stop lies and propaganda, it starts with the understanding that you are not immune to the effects of disinformation. 

The Devil Unbound: Learn to identify misinformation and disinformation
Read. Keep Reading.

Keep thinking critically, and if you want help in getting started in the battle against these severe problems, read my article 3 tools to identify misinformation and fake news in times of confusion

— The Devil Unbound


  1. Whatsapp is one of the platforms where so much crap is flung around. And people actually eat it up and share it like it’s the only truth that exists.

  2. Yes, social media and messaging apps, like any mass communication media in the past, have become platforms for misinformation dissemination and surveillance. I read today that social media is legal wiretapping. Most of it unfortunately is the result of human emotion – wanting something to be true because it feels that way is more acceptable to people than facing the actual truth.

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