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Fake News, Misinformation, and the Thought Leader

This article first appeared in the London Business Matters November/December 2021 edition

Are fake news and misinformation the same?

Fake news is a pervasive problem in today’s increasingly connected world, costing the global economy $78 billion each year.  Its definition is in the name – deliberately misleading information disguised as news. We often use ‘fake news’ to refer to inaccurate information – but is it really the same as misinformation?

In a society engaging in divisive discourse, where the abundance of content outstrips moderation, we are exposed to (and must constantly evaluate) the veracity of the information we receive. To equate fake news with misinformation, however, would be to discount the complexity of the latter.

Fake news is the poster child of misinformation; uninformed misrepresentation of facts is its overlooked sibling.

The misinformation network is always evolving and there are different approaches to uncover its structure. It can involve an intent or lack of intent to deceive.

Fake news is only one facet of disinformation: a form of misinformation. Misinformation is an umbrella term, regardless of intention, while disinformation involves specific intent to deceive.

Types of disinformation

Disinformation — which maintains the underlying intent to deceive — is prominent due to the havoc it can cause.

An interim report on “Disinformation and Fake News” by the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, categorises disinformation as:

  • Fabricated content
  • Manipulated content  
  • Imposter content
  • Misleading content
  • False context of connection
  • Satire and parody

iResearch Services surveyed 1000 consumers and 600 business leaders globally about misinformation.

Fake news categories dominated, with both groups surveyed agreeing that, of all types of disinformation, manipulated content has the biggest impact on society.

Fake news is a pressing problem, but respondents acknowledged it is not the only misinformation issue businesses have to worry about.

Both business leaders and consumers acknowledged the prevalence of inaccurate information, without the intention to deceive. This is a stark reminder to businesses: when it comes to misinformation, fake news is a significant challenge, but not the only one.

What does this mean for businesses?

94% of business leaders said misinformation poses a problem. It’s not just fake news, but the whole misinformation network. Organisations need to understand the evolving nature of its infrastructure to defend themselves and their customers. This is where Thought Leadership is a valuable tool. Through creating research-based, factual, educational content, backed up by evidence and informed opinion; and by disseminating this consistently across all communications channels, businesses can communicate truth, trends, challenges and opportunities on the issues that matter for consumers and industry, cementing their position as an authority and trusted source of knowledge and insights.

Find out more about the risks of misinformation to businesses and suggested solutions in the iResearch Services Misinformation report.

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