Researchers Dr. Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan introduced a conceptual framework for examining information disorder or information pollution. For starters, they argued that the current dependence on simplistic terms such as “fake news” hides critical distinctions concerning wrong and malicious information. The simplistic terms also often focus too much on “truth” versus “fake,” although information disorder comes in different shades.
The two argued further that the term “fake news” has been appropriated by politicians and critics of news media around the world to describe news organizations whose reports and coverage they find disagreeable. Hence, the term has been used by influential individuals and factions to undermine, circumvent, and discredit the free press.
Nevertheless, the Wardle-Derakhshan Framework provides a model for researchers or academics, policymakers, technologists, and media practitioners to work on different challenges related to misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation.
Understanding the Wardle-Derakhshan Framework of Information Disorder
The Three Categories of Information Disorder of Wardle and Derakshan
Wardle and Derakhshan identified three categories of information disorder. These are misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. Take note of the following definitions or characteristics of each:
1. Misinformation: Unintentional mistakes such as inaccurate captions, dates, statistics, translations, or when satirical contents are taken seriously by the consumers. Take note that although the information are false, they are not created with the intention of causing harm
2. Disinformation: Fabricated or intentionally manipulated contents, including deliberately created conspiracy theories or rumors. These false information are deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organization, or country.
3. Malinformation: Deliberate publication of private information for personal or private interest, as well as the deliberate manipulation of genuine content. Note that these information are based on reality, but are used and disseminated to cause harm.
The Three Elements and Three Phases of Information Disorder
The Wardle-Derakhshan Framework also explains that understanding or analyzing any example of information disorder requires an understanding of its three elements. Below are the elements:
• Agent: Who were the ‘agents’ that created, produced, and distributed the example, and what was their motivation? These agents are involved in all three phases of the information chain, and they have different motivations. Furthermore, their characteristics can vary from phase to phase.
• Message: What type of message was it? What format did it take? What were the characteristics? Note that messages can be communicated by agents in person, through texts using specific mediums, or through audio and visual materials such as images, videos, motion-graphics, or memes, among others.
• Interpreter: When the message was received by someone, how did they interpret the message? What action, if any, did they take? The interpreter or the audience is made up of many individuals, each of which interprets information according to his or her own sociocultural status, political positions, and personal experiences.
Also, the framework argues that it is also essential to consider in analysis the three phases of the life of a particular example of information disorder. The following are a short description of each:
• Phase 1. Creation: The message is created. It centers primarily on conceptualizing and writing the message for a predetermined medium and channel of communication.
• Phase 2. Production: The message is turned into a media product. Doing so involves embedding the message into the predetermined medium such as print, audio, or visual mediums.
• Phase 3. Distribution: The message is distributed or made public. Common channels of distribution include interpersonal, mass media, and digital media communications.
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- Konsyse Staff. 2019. “Misinformation vs. Disinformation vs. Malinformation.” Konsyse. Available online
- Wardle, C. and Derakhshan, H. 2017. Information Disorder: Toward an Interdisciplinary Framework for Research and Policy Making. Strasbourg: Council of Europe. Available via PDF