Disinformation is deliberately generated misleading content disseminated for selfish or malicious purposes. Unlike misinformation, which may be shared unwittingly or with good intentions, disinformation aims to foment distrust, destabilize institutions, discredit good intentions, defame opponents and delegitimize sources of knowledge such as science and journalism.
Certainly it’s worth watching for the warning signs for misinformation and dangerous speech, but there are additional tactics disinformation agents employ.
It’s just a joke
Hahaganda is a tactic in which disinformation agents use memes, political comedy from state-run outlets, or speeches to make light of serious matters, attack others, minimize violence or dehumanize, and deflect blame.
This approach provides an easy defense: If challenged, the disinformation agents can say, “Can’t you take a joke?” often followed by accusations of being too politically correct.
Rumor-milling is a tactic in which the disinformation agents claim to have exclusive access to secrets they allege are being purposefully concealed. They indicate that you will “only hear this here” and will imply that others are unwilling to share the alleged truth – for example, “The media won’t report this” or “The government doesn’t want you to know” and “I shouldn’t be telling you this … .”
But they do not insist that the information be kept secret, and will instead include encouragement to share it – for example, “Make this go viral” or “Most people won’t have the courage to share this.” It’s important to question how an author or speaker could have come by such “secret” information and what their motive is to prompt you to share it.