Bigger Worry Than Fake News

A bigger threat to your business than fake news

Fake news is all around us, damaging our companies and our way of life – and it’s big business.

What is the difference between misinformation, disinformation and fake news?

The online advertising revenue earned by disinformation sites each year is believed to total around £173million (US$235million), with £26.5million (US$36million) going to climate change disinformation sites in 2021.

That conservative estimate comes from Clare Melford, co-founder of the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), which aims to provide a framework for determining disinformation for brands and advertisers.

“Disinformation is a business – a profitable one,” she says.

But as well as generating large profits, disinformation and misinformation can also damage the bottom line of businesses both large and small around the world.

iResearch Services has published a new report that examines misinformation and its effect on business and profitability. The New Reality: Mitigating the Risks of Misinformation canvassed 600 business leaders and 1,000 consumers globally on what misinformation is, the risks companies face, and overall ethical issues. The report also contains practical advice on how businesses can mitigate risk.

What is the difference between misinformation, disinformation and fake news?

Misinformation is the distribution of inaccurate facts – knowingly or unknowingly – while disinformation involves the specific intent to deceive. Fake news is a popularly debated form of misinformation.

Most people in the survey (54%) say misinformation is more common than fake news (46%).

The assertion was stronger among business leaders specifically, at 57% versus 43%.

With rapid advances in technology, particularly the internet and social media, the speed and ease of exchange of information can create a complex network of inaccuracy that poses a significant problem to all.

That is borne out by an overwhelming 94% of business leaders who say that misinformation is a problem for industry and commerce, 95% who believe it is an issue to consumers, and 96% who see it as a worry to society. The response from the 1,000 consumers surveyed was similar, respectively at 94%, 92% and 93%.

What issues do businesses most face?

The survey includes definitions of these terms in the Disinformation and Fake News draft report from the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport.

Manipulated content can be a doctored image, a sensationalist headline often employed by “clickbait”. Fabricated content – including fake news – is made up or deliberated distorted, while false content is material used out of context. Imposter content is falsely claimed to be from a genuine, trusted source. Satire and parody use humour, while sometimes distorting truth.

According to the survey, bosses say the biggest problem for businesses is manipulated content (37%), followed by fabricated content (25%), false content (20%), imposter content (16%) and satire or parody just 2%.

Businesses encounter misinformation and disinformation to a greater or lesser degree daily. Former US cybersecurity head Chris Krebs put it like this: “You’ve either been the target of a disinformation attack or you are about to be.”

But companies can also – knowingly or unknowingly – be the perpetrators of misinformation and disinformation.

How does all this affect profitability?

With so much publicity about fake news and misleading content, consumers have become savvier about questioning whether a business’s claims about its products and services are true – and acting on their concerns.

When made aware of misinformation associated with a particular company, 85% of consumers say they are less likely to purchase goods and services from them, our survey reveals. That’s a pretty persuasive argument for mitigating the risks of misinformation.

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