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Guest Opinion

Misinformation and disinformation. What’s the difference?


Few would argue that well-informed voters are vitally necessary for democracy to survive and thrive. Only well-informed voters have a chance to consistently make rational decisions on what/who can best serve the needs of citizens. On the other hand, misinformed or disinformed voters are very likely to make bad choices that can result in harm to individual citizens and very possibly, damage the very foundations of our democratic society.

These days truth, evidence and facts compete for voters’ attention alongside rumors, viral hoaxes, conspiracy theories and false information. The relentless stream of inaccurate information confuses and divides us and, as it causes us to be unsure of anything we see, hear or read, makes us feel impotent and discourages some from voting. In recent elections, bad actors, both foreign and domestic, have attempted, with some success, to spread false information to get an election result that serves their needs, not the needs of the American citizens.

False information generally comes in two forms: MISinformation and DISinformation.

MISinformation refers to false or inaccurate information that is spread without the intention to deceive. Misinformation can be the result of genuine mistakes, misunderstandings, or the sharing of information without verifying its accuracy. It often spreads UNINTENTIONALLY through social media, word of mouth, or other means.

DISinformation, on the other hand, refers to INTENTIONALLY false, inaccurate or misleading information, spread with the aim of deceiving people or influencing their opinions, beliefs, and/or behaviors, including their voting decisions. Its various forms include junk news, rumors, hoaxes, conspiracy theories and manipulated media content.

Obviously, if a citizen’s voting decisions are based on either type of false information, that vote will not reflect the voter’s intent and may, in fact, be a vote for the very opposite. To avoid this problem, voters must know how to identify and reject false information and where to find valid information.

False information is too often widely spread by people forwarding or re-tweeting it, without first verifying its validity. To avoid accepting, and even worse, distributing false information, voters have a responsibility to fact-check anything that doesn’t appear obviously true, before acting upon or distributing it. There are several credible fact-checking websites such as:

• and, for general fact-checking;

•, for fact-checking political information;

•, for verifying or debunking apparent rumors.

Avoiding being duped by disinformation takes more effort. With modern computer technology and now, artificial intelligence, it it not difficult for a tech-savvy person to create content that while false, looks very real, so we can’t afford to be complacent. There are recent cases of bad actors using video and voice-edited videos that show famous people saying things the astute observer would never attribute to that person. We must constantly be vigilant. If you see something that looks non-credible or out of character for the source, double-check before accepting it. can analyze digital images and determine if they’ve been manipulated. If you are suspicious of election information, check with local election officials (

The League of Women Voters’, is a comprehensive source of up-to-date, accurate, non-partisan election information, including what’s on your particular ballot, your registration status, your polling place, candidate information, upcoming debates and other relevant local election information.

When seeking accurate and reliable information, it’s important to critically evaluate sources, fact-check data, and rely only on credible and trustworthy sources. Combating false information requires media literacy, critical thinking, and a collective effort to promote accurate and transparent communication.

An excellent source to find out more on this subject comes from the Pittsburgh chapter of the League of Women Voters at

Informed citizens are democracy’s best defense. One could make the case that misinformed or disinformed citizens are its greatest threat.

Jim Morano is a member of the League of Women Voters of Bucks County, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to providing voter education and services and advocating for issues. It envisions a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate.

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