Tactics Used to Generate Disinformation

Disinformation is

false information spread deliberately to deceive. This is a subset of misinformation, which also may unintentional. […] misinformation refers to inaccuracies that stem from error, disinformation is deliberate falsehood promulgated by design.

So, if disinformation is…deliberate falsehood promulgated by design…, maybe we should unpack and study the design of such information in order to be better prepared and aware to take action when we encounter such falsehood.

The digital age has heightened our vulnerability to falsehood, but recognizing such weaknesses can help guard against them

How Disinformation Hacks Your Brain by Brett Beasley

Knowing about tactics used to generate and disseminate disinformation, helps us being aware and better equipped with skills to debunk potential false information. Looking further in detail how disinformation is being generated, it allows us to be cognizant what to do when we encounter such information.

even those of us who are intelligent, analytical and comfortable with ambiguity find statements more believable simply because we have heard them repeated.

How Disinformation Hacks Your Brain by Brett Beasley

I really like how the Australian news channel below is making debunking disinformation about the Corona Virus visible to their viewers.

Here are some techniques, I have collected. I am sure more exist and more are being “invented” in this rapid changing landscape of disinformation that is connected to politics, power, money, or sheer joy to seed problems distrust or confusion.

[Sidenote: I will update this post with links to examples, as I am finding them… please feel free to contribute and leave links to examples of these techniques in the comment section.]

  • Recycle- Reframe-Repackage-Re-purposed
    a photo or story is legitimate, but it is being shared in new ways to give a different representation than the original photo had to support and serve a new agenda.
  • Doctored (manipulated) Images
    images are being “photoshopped” to make us see something that simply did not happen or does not exist.
  • Doctored (manipulated) Text
    text in a photo is being erased, changed or completely replaced by other text.
  • Shallow Fakes
    Selective editing… something that did happen is being changed to give a different impression. Examples are changing the speed (slowing own or speeding up) of a video, cutting the length of a video clip to only share an out of context “quote”, or selectively splicing or clipping a video, rearranging the order or taking out clips to create a new meaning.
  • Deep Fakes
    Videos created with AI (Artificial Intelligence) by putting people into false situations or making them appear to say false quotes.
  • Misleading Headlines
    Headlines are written as clickbait or mislead the reader on purpose, banking on readers just skimming headlines versus reading the full article for further (potentially clarifying) information. Headlines do not match the content of the article or video. These headlines mislead the reader o contradict the content,
  • Jumping in the Bandwagon
    When the comments of a social media post generate an impression for the reader that the majority of commenters understand an issue in a certain way or support a particular point of view. It makes the reader feel, they have a “wrong” opinion or point of view, since the “majority” thinks/feels differently.
  • Propaganda
    Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.
  • Data Void
    When news is happening and little verified information is being made available, an informational vacuum can allow for mis/disinformation to be disseminated and will spread at a much faster pace than factual information.
  • Whataboutism
    Using false comparisons to support pre-fabricated narratives or justify one’s own actions. Examples of pointing fingers at others when asked about one’s own shortcomings.
  • No Proof
    Facts or statements are not backed up with proof or sources and just being disseminated as is. Be aware of statements with no further link(s) to show proof or with links that are only for show and do not actually show proof. These supposedly “source links” don’t actually link to sites that show proof, banking on the reader not following them to verify.
  • Cherry Picking
    Selectively choosing to only tell certain facts and strategically leaving out others or telling only one side of the story. Cherry picking tricks the reader by giving them a false impression that they fully understand the story.
  • Facts
    • Denying Facts
      Real facts are being denied or wrongly undermined. Even when the story is being told, this strategy will discredit or question the accuracy.
    • False Facts
      Directly disseminating false facts as real.
    • Drowning Facts
      A news story is presented in such an emotional way that facts lose their importance. This strategy can also be used when one covers the one true fact with so many false facts, that it is almost impossible for the reader to know the fake from the real.
  • False Dilemma
    Falsely claiming to be an “either/or” situation, when in fact there is at least one additional option, it can also be an “us” vs. “them” scenario.
  • Conspiracy Theory
    Employing rumors, myths or claims of conspiracy to distract or dismay an audience. Examples around theories of origins of the Coronavirus
  • Opinion vs. Fact
    An opinion is presented as a fact in order to advance or discredit a narrative.
  • Loaded Words
    Wording that attempts to influence an audience by appealing to emotions or stereotypes.
  • Exaggeration or Generalization
    Dramatizes. raises false alarms or uses a particular anecdote to shape a conclusion of a larger scope.
  • Knock-Offs
    A fake news website with a domain name and logo that resembles, with slight variations, a trusted news outlet. These imposters attract followers and fool them into believing that the site’s misleading or false content is credible.

Having the awareness of these techniques that are used to strategically generate disinformation is the first step to recognize them when confronted with these types in our daily consumption of information. We need to continue to develop skills to not only recognize these strategies, but also unpack them to verify or debunk them.