Fake news is “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the Internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke.” (Cambridge Dictionary)
Influencers are thought leaders in a specific topic area with a strong social follower base.
Bots are social media accounts that are operated entirely by computer programs and are designed to generate posts and/or engage with content on a particular platform. In disinformation campaigns, bots can be used to draw attention to misleading narratives, to hijack platforms’ trending lists and to create the illusion of public discussion and support. Researchers and technologists take different approaches to identifying bots, using algorithms or simpler rules based on number of posts per day.
Botnet is a collection or network of bots that acts in coordination and is typically operated by one person or group. Commercial botnets can include as many as tens of thousands of bots.
Dark ads are advertisements that are only visible to publishers and their target audiences. For example, Facebook allows advertisers to create posts that reach specific users based on their demographic profile, page ‘likes’ and their listed interests (but these ads are not publicly visible). These types of targeted posts cost money and are therefore considered a form of advertising. Because these posts are only seen by a segment of the audience, they are difficult to monitor or track.
Deepfakes are fabricated media produced using artificial intelligence. By synthesizing different elements of existing video or audio files, AI enables relatively easy methods for creating ‘new’ content, in which individuals appear to speak words and perform actions which are not based on reality. It is likely we will see examples of this type of synthetic media used more frequently in disinformation campaigns, as these techniques become more sophisticated.
Disinformation is false information that is deliberately created or disseminated with the express purpose to cause harm. Producers of disinformation typically have political, financial, psychological or social motivations.
Fact-checking is the process of determining the truthfulness and accuracy of official, published information such as politicians’ statements and news reports. Fact-checking emerged in the U.S. in the 1990s, as a way of authenticating claims made in political ads airing on television. There are now approximately 150 fact-checking organizations in the world, and many now also debunk mis- and disinformation from unofficial sources circulating online.
Fake followers are anonymous, or imposter social media accounts created to portray false impressions of popularity about another account. Social media users can pay for fake followers as well as fake likes, views and shares to give the appearance of a larger audience.
Malinformation is genuine information that is shared to cause harm. This includes private or revealing information that is spread to harm a person or reputation.
Manufactured amplification occurs when the reach or spread of information is boosted through artificial means. This includes human and automated manipulation of search engine results and trending lists, and the promotion of certain links or hashtags on social media. There are online price lists for different types of amplification, including prices for generating fake votes and signatures in online polls and petitions, and the cost of downranking specific content from search engine results.
Meme, coined by biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976, is an idea or behavior that spreads person to person throughout a culture by propagating rapidly. The term is now used most frequently to describe captioned photos or GIFs that spread online, and the most effective are humorous or critical of society. They are increasingly being used as powerful vehicles of disinformation.
Misinformation is information that is false, but not deliberately intended to mislead or cause harm. For example, individuals who don’t know a piece of information is false may spread it on social media in an attempt to be helpful.
Propaganda is generally biased or misleading information spread to persuade an audience, but often has a political connotation. It is worth noting that the lines between advertising, publicity, journalism and propaganda are often unclear or deliberately muddled.
Sock puppet is an online account that uses a false identity designed specifically to deceive. Sock puppets are used on social platforms to inflate another account’s follower numbers and to spread or amplify false information to a mass audience. The term is considered by some to be synonymous with the term “bot.”
Spam is unsolicited, impersonal online communication, generally used to promote, advertise or scam a user. Today, it is mostly distributed via email, and algorithms detect, filter and block spam from users’ inboxes. Similar technologies to those implemented in the fight against spam could potentially be used in the context of information disorder, once accepted criteria and indicators have been agreed.
Trolling is the act of deliberately posting offensive or inflammatory content to an online community with the intent of provoking readers or disrupting conversation. Today, the term “troll” is most often used to refer to any person harassing or insulting others online. However, it has also been used to describe human-controlled accounts performing bot-like activities.
Troll farm is a group of individuals engaging in trolling or bot-like promotion of narratives in a coordinated fashion. One prominent troll farm was the Russia-based Internet Research Agency that spread inflammatory content online in an attempt to interfere in the U.S. presidential election of 2016.
Verification is the process of determining the authenticity of information posted by unofficial sources online, particularly visual media. It emerged as a new skill set for journalists and human rights activists in the late 2000s, most notably in response to the need to verify visual imagery during the ‘Arab Spring.’