For Effective Misinformation Prevention We Must Define what ‘Information’ Is

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We need to be clear about what really is ‘information’. Is ‘misinformation’ information or something else? Information scientists have adopted a general definition of information (GDI). According to the GDI, information is data that is well-formed and meaningful [1]. Misinformation and disinformation are not genuine information because they are false, although they may have semantic content. Semantic factual content is what distinguishes authentic information from false information.
Information quality is an issue primarily about meaning, not about grammar.
In the examples below, all sentences are grammatical but only sentence (3) contains authentic information. Sentences (1) and (2) are meaningless and (4) is a hypothesis:
(1) That man, the human next door, he is actually a reptile.
(2) He murdered that innocent man, but because he didn’t really kill him, the victim is dead.
(3) That tomato you are holding in your hand is a fruit.
(4) The sun will rise tomorrow.
Unless further evidence is given (or the presuppositions made clear) to support the claim made in (1), an organism cannot simultaneously be human and a reptile. It is possible that the writer of (1) has some secret knowledge about humans and reptiles and the belief expressed could be justified. Knowledge can only convey information when it is made concrete and articulated through the mind. If there is tacit knowledge hidden in the mind of the writer of (1), it is not expressed coherently: no information is communicated. If belief in (1) could be justified, that would not make the statement necessarily true. Sentence (2) could be further clarified but as it stands is meaningless. The claim in (3) may appear strange to many people (a tomato is generally thought of as a vegetable), but, even without support (clarification in the sentence), the statement is authentic because it is scientifically correct. Stating that a tomato is a fruit is different from saying that the sun will rise tomorrow. The claim in (4) is not fact but a hypothesis because what is asserted is really speculation based on historical antecedent.

[1] Luciano Floridi. Semantic conceptions of information. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/information-semantic/

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