Disclaimer: This dictionary term is meant to act as a red-blue translator to help you understand how people of different political stripes use, think, or feel about the same word or phrase. The Red Blue Dictionary is not meant to provide a concrete, final definition of hot-button words, but rather, to help people better understand one another.
Some people believe misinformation is a grave threat, and that propagated falsehoods are a danger to democracy. Others believe that the term "misinformation" is a tool wielded to justify silencing certain people and perspectives, particularly those who dissent from powerful institutions or agendas.
Like its sister terms, disinformation and fake news, misinformation has increasingly come to be applied to any position or perspective that one group finds objectionable or concerning. What, then, constitutes “misinformation” for one group may simply represent another group’s honest estimation of the truth.
Misinformation is typically understood to mean false information that is shared accidentally, while disinformation is information that is intentionally shared to deceive or manipulate. However, the two terms are sometimes used similiarly or even interchangebly.
Some people believe misinformation is a grave concern because people who propagate misinformation don't necessarily have an agenda to share something false, but rather because they earnestly believe the information being shared is true. This is done by normal folks using social media, and sometimes by media sources. Propagators of misinformation do not typically recognize how bias or falsehoods are leading them away from the truth and/or the full picture. People who hold this view — that misinformation is propagated by people who don't know better — may see the need for greater content or speech moderation from social media giants or other institutions. Some people see bias in the media as always being intentional (and sometimes it may be). But sometimes it is committed accidentally by people who mean well, don't know the truth, are caught up in a public narrative, or are biased themselves/in their own bubble. In this view, misinformation, while unintentional, may still be blameworthy because sometimes it is the result of the person sharing it/the journalist not caring enough about the other side to dig deeper and make sure it's the truth.
Other people believe the word "misinformation" lacks concrete meaning and is used to silence positions, perspectives, or information that do not suit an agenda. For instance, journalist Glenn Greenwald has argued that the term "misinformation" is a label that has no clear or concise meaning by design, and that the elasticity of the term allows it to be wielded to silence people who question or are not devoted to affirming certain positions (usually left-liberal ones). In this view, cries of "misinformation" are simply used to censor and prohibit dissent, free speech, and inquiry.