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Misinformation vs. Disinformation vs. Fake News and How Brands Can Understand It and Plan for It


Fake news has a way of becoming sticky because it taps into emotions, drives outrage, and often becomes popular consensus among the general public. And once things become familiar to a group of people, it becomes their narrative. The work of researcher Ania Korsunska shows misinformation spreads far and wide, and corrections can’t catch up because people rarely go back to the original story.

Recent research has shown that misinformation spreads far and wide, and corrections kind of limp behind, but never catch up. People never spread corrections – they’re never going to go as far as the original story.

– Ania Korsunska

It doesn’t help that the press is stretched and asked to write more content in less time, the way social media enables the rapid spread of content across networks, and how difficult it is for organizations and consumers to identify and define what’s fake vs. what’s real.

So how can brands identify misinformation that will become popular consensus? Is it possible to get a step ahead of it before it enters the mainstream and headlines hit?

Robert Matney, Managing Director of Government Affairs at Yonder, was invited to a webinar as part of Brandwatch Fake News Week to discuss misinformation and dispel myths around it to help brands understand and plan for it. Below are myths around misinformation covered on the webinar. Watch it below.

FIRST: A note that misinformation and disinformation are different things. The way in which you manage each should differ based on the intent, who’s involved, and what’s really behind it.

  • Misinformation = Incorrect or misleading information inadvertently sent in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.
  • Disinformation = False information deliberately and often covertly spread in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.
  • Both contribute to fake news, spread like wildfire across social platforms, pose a risk to brands and their audiences.

Myth #1: Misinformation is bots & fake stories. In fact, misinformation isn’t just about what’s fake vs. real but about engagement authenticity and true and evenly distributed content that represents conversational equality.

Myth #2: Truth wins over misinformation. We often see that the spread of information and what consumers believe outweighs the truth in terms of impact on popular perception around your brand

Myth #3: Engagement = Impact. Sometimes engagement is artificially amplified. Other times it’s in an echo chamber. When ideologically distanced groups engage each other across networks is when high-impact or viral narratives happen.

Myth #4: Sentiment is a leading indicator of risk. The truth is, sentiment is useful but doesn’t account for fake content, irony, or uneven distribution of content. Leaning on sentiment analysis only can put brands in a purely reactive mode.

Myth #5: Misinformation can’t be predicted. Misinformation has a digital footprint. You can see it coming if you know what to look for. For example, social conversations driven by high-engagement agenda-driven groups (factions) can be early indicators of false narratives likely to blow up in the mainstream media.

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