DOI: 10.36190/2021.51

Published: 2021-06-01
Disambiguating Disinformation: Extending Beyond the Veracity of Online Content
Keeley Erhardt, Alex 'Sandy' Pentland

Following the 2016 US presidential election and the now overwhelming evidence of Russian interference, there has been an explosion of interest in the phenomenon of "fake news". To date, research on false news has centered around detecting content from low-credibility sources and analyzing how this content spreads across online platforms. Misinformation poses clear risks, yet research agendas that overemphasize veracity miss the opportunity to truly understand the Kremlin-led disinformation campaign that shook so many Americans. In this paper, we present a definition for disinformation - a set or sequence of orchestrated, agenda-driven information actions with the intent to deceive—that is useful in contextualizing Russian interference in 2016 and disinformation campaigns more broadly. We expand on our ongoing work to operationalize this definition and demonstrate how detecting disinformation must extend beyond assessing the credibility of a specific publisher, user, or story.