Fake news is everywhere and one dictionary was inspired by that problem when it chose a specific entry for its Word of the Year.
This week, Dictionary.com announced its Word of the Year for 2018. Their selection was inspired by the ongoing battle against fake news.
The site chose misinformation as its 2018 word of the year. The site defines the word this way:
“false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead”
There’s an interesting angle to misinformation, which Dictionary.com Linguist-in-Residence Jane Solomon explained was picked over disinformation for an important reason: “The intent behind the two words is important to note – with misinformation, the intent is generally not to mislead; with disinformation, the intent is always to mislead.”
‘Fake news’ isn’t what some people think it is
In our over-politicized, always-angry society, people love labeling stories as “fake news.”
If the phrase had been around in the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, angry white Southerners would surely have labeled any story about equality as “fake news.”
They would have done so not because the news was inaccurate, but because they just didn’t want to hear it.
Such is the case today.
But it’s worth noting that news isn’t “fake” just because you disagree with it. It isn’t “fake” just because it’s something you don’t care to discuss.
You may already be aware of that. But you’d be surprised by how many don’t seem to be.
Dictionary.com’s choice of misinformation is a reflection of this, particularly on social media. As Solomon said, with misinformation, the intent is “generally not to mislead.”
How many times have you seen someone in your friends list on social media share a story that is easily disproved with even rudimentary fact-checking? Those are easy to catch, usually. That’s surely “fake news.”
But sometimes, those fake stories — absolutely untrue stories not based in facts — just seem to be so real. People may share those and spread them around with the best of intentions.
Because they might seem legitimate, they spread.
It’s worth thinking about before the next time you hit that “Share” button.