‘Non-information’ and ‘Off-information’ – Strange Information Disorder Variants

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A quick search on Wikipedia for the entry on ‘Misinformation’ will produce a write up that begins with a definition:

“Misinformation is false, inaccurate, or misleading information that is communicated regardless of an intention to deceive. Examples of misinformation are false rumors, insults, and pranks. Disinformation is a subset of misinformation that is deliberately deceptive” [1].

We like this definition of ‘misinformation’ as the umbrella term for falsehood. However, increasingly popular is the definition that separates disinformation from misinformation (rather than keeping it as a subset of misinformation), such as that popularized by the scholars Wardle and Derakhshan (2017):

“Mis-information is when false information is shared, but no harm is meant. Dis-information is when false information is knowingly shared to cause harm. Mal-information is when genuine information is shared to cause harm, often by moving information designed to stay private into the public sphere.” [2]

Dictionary.com named ‘misinformation’ its 2018 Word of the Year [3]  and explains why ‘misinformation’ is falsehood spread regardless of intention:

“Misinformation is false information that is spread, regardless of intent to mislead… Misinformation doesn’t care about intent, and so is simply a term for any kind of wrong or false information… Misinformation is, of course, related to the verb misinform, which means “to give wrong or misleading information to” and is first recorded around 1350–1400. You’ll notice that misinform, like misinformation, also makes no mention of why this wrong information is being spread around, only that it is.” [4]

In addition to mis-information, dis-information and mal-information, Omoregie (2021) introduced ‘off-information’ and ‘non-information’ to describe two other variants of information disorder [5]. Off-information’ is information that is meaningful but potentially harmful and cannot be analyzed as being true or false. An example of off-information:

Swallow arsenic when you feel depressed. [5]

Non-information contains no semantic content – it is meaningless – and may or may not be harmful [45. Noam Chomsky’s famous example of a sentence that is grammatically correct but meaningless is a good example of non-information:

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously [6].





[1] Wikipedia. Misinformation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misinformation#cite_note-2

[2] Wardle, C, Derkhshan, H. Information disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policymaking. Council of Europe Report, 2017. https://edoc.coe.int/en/media/7495-information-disorder-toward-an-interdisciplinary-framework-for-research-and-policy-making.html

[3] Prnewswire.com. Dictionary.com names ‘Misinformation’ 2018 Word of the Year, 2018. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/dictionarycom-names-misinformation-2018-word-of-the-year-300755058.html

[4] Dictionary.com. “Misinformation” vs. “disinformation” get informed on the difference. https://www.dictionary.com/e/misinformation-vs-disinformation-get-informed-on-the-difference/

[5] Omoregie, U. Information disorder online is an issue of information quality. Academia Letters 2021, Article 2999. https://doi.org/10.20935/AL2999

[6] Chomsky, N. Syntactic Structures. Berlin: Mouton de Guyter, 1957, p.49.