disinformation

noun

dis·​in·​for·​ma·​tion (ˌ)dis-ˌin-fər-ˈmā-shən How to pronounce disinformation (audio)
: false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth

Examples of disinformation in a Sentence

The government used disinformation to gain support for the policy.
Recent Examples on the Web Moscow’s four key objectives The documents show how in January 2023 the Kremlin’s first deputy chief of staff, Sergei Kiriyenko, tasked a team of officials and political strategists with establishing a presence on Ukrainian social media to distribute disinformation. Catherine Belton, Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2024 If elections are seriously compromised, either through direct interference or disinformation campaigns, then democracy may fail. Loren Thompson, Forbes, 15 Feb. 2024 The conversation ranged from the ways AI is used to create warped realities, how companies can fight back against misinformation, and why the major AI platforms haven’t focused on the disinformation problem. Fortune Editors, Fortune, 14 Feb. 2024 Media organizations began to cover the phenomenon extensively, creating a disinformation beat. Joel Simon, The New Yorker, 12 Feb. 2024 Those concerns reflected those of Father Benanti, who does not believe in the industry’s ability to self-regulate and thinks some rules of the road are required in a world where deep fakes and disinformation can erode democracy. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, 9 Feb. 2024 On Telegram, there were clear signs of a coordinated effort to boost conversations around the Texas crisis, according to analysis shared exclusively with WIRED by Logically, a company using artificial intelligence to track disinformation campaigns. David Gilbert, WIRED, 7 Feb. 2024 Biden’s campaign at the time said it had been referred to the attorney general, and slammed the call as disinformation. David Wright, CNN, 6 Feb. 2024 These include the proliferation of disinformation, as well as job losses, and the likelihood that bad actors will seek to use the new technology to sow havoc. Mustafa Suleyman, Foreign Affairs, 23 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'disinformation.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

dis- + information, after Russian dezinformácija

Note: Russian dezinformácija and the adjective derivative dezinformaciónnyj can be found in Soviet military science journals published during the 1930's. The Malaja Sovetskaja Ènciklopedija (1930-38) defines the word as "information known to be false that is surreptitiously passed to an enemy" ("dezinformacija, t.e., zavedomo lživaja informacija podkidyvaemaja protivniku"; vol. 3, p. 585). The verb dezinformírovat' "to knowingly misinform" is attested earlier, no later than 1925, and may have been the basis for the noun. In more recent decades claims have been made about the origin of the word that are dubious and cannot be substantiated. According to the former Romanian intelligence officer Ion Mihai Pacepa, "Iosif Stalin invented this secret 'science,' giving it a French-sounding name and pretending it was a dirty Western practice" (Ion Mihai Pacepa and Ronald J. Rychlak, Disinformation [Washington, D.C., 2013], p. 4). Martin J. Manning, in Historical Dictionary of American Propaganda (Westport, CT, 2004), pushes the word back still further: "Disinformation as a KGB weapon began in 1923 when I.S. Unshlikht, Deputy Chairman of the GPU, then the name of the KGB, proposed the establishment of a 'special disinformation office to conduct active intelligence operations ….' " No source is given for this quotation. The English word disinformation as a translation of the Russian one appears to have been introduced in an article written for the Saturday Evening Post under the byline of Walter Krivitsky, a Soviet intelligence officer who defected in the fall of 1937 and made his way to the U.S. in November, 1938. Krivitsky, in need of money, was aided in publishing a series of Saturday Evening Post articles by the journalist Isaac Don Levine and the socialist politician and historian David Shub. (The articles became the contents of a book, In Stalin's Secret Service, published in November, 1939.) More than simply aiding him, Shub and Levine presumably acted as translators and editors, seeing that Krivitsky most likely knew little or no English. He introduces the word disinformation after reporting a boast by a German that the Red Army was infiltrated by spies; Krivitsky rejoins in the first person: "I knew only too well the character of such evidence … it was the type of information designed especially for wide circulation, with the view toward undermining the morale of the enemy. In military-intelligence parlance, it is known as 'disinformation' " (Saturday Evening Post, April 22, 1939, p. 74).

First Known Use

1939, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of disinformation was in 1939

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Dictionary Entries Near disinformation

Cite this Entry

“Disinformation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disinformation. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

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