Glossary of Terms

Below you will find some terms that we discuss in various modules of the guide.


This is false information that is spread but not necessarily with the intent to mislead those that encounter it. Misinformation often surfaces when a breaking news story is unfolding and details have not yet been confirmed.


This is false information deliberately designed to mislead.

Fake News:

These are falsehoods that mimic news media content.

See Data & Society’s Lexicon of Lies and Harvard University, Shorenstein Center, Technology and Social Change project’s Media Manipulation Casebook for more terms and definitions about disinformation.

Illusory truth effect:

This is the idea that we are more likely to believe things when they aren’t challenged and when we hear them repeated over and over again.

Continued influence effect:

This is the idea that even after individuals have seen corrections to mis- or disinformation and those corrections reduce their belief in the falsehood, they are still susceptible to the influence of the misinformation.

Confirmation bias:

This is the idea that people are more likely to believe mis- or disinformation if it reinforces a belief that they already have.

Backfire effect:

This is the idea that repeating a falsehood to correct it may actually increase an audience’s familiarity, and inadvertently its belief, in the disinformation. Remember, research has actually shown backfire effects are minimal.

For more on the various types of backfire effects, check out this helpful piece from First Draft News.

Inoculation Theory:

This is the idea that delivering factual information to an audience before it encounters a falsehood – while, at the same time, discrediting it by exposing the motives or techniques – can help prime the audience members’ brains to dismiss it. The general idea is similar to that of the vaccine metaphor it’s named for. A vaccine injects a weakened version of a virus into the body so the immune system can produce antibodies to build resistance and prevent illness if the individual is exposed to the virus in the future. Similarly, inoculation messaging primes the brain to recognize and not believe disinformation because it provides the individual with a weakened version of a misleading argument before the person is exposed to the disinformation.