Disinformation (Part 1)Posted: December 11, 2012
December 11, 2012
Last week, I posted a blog dealing with the problem of misinformation. This time I want to deal with disinformation, something radically different.
Misinformation reflects your misunderstanding of what you see. Disinformation is an affirmative effort by someone else to mislead you into seeing things that are not there or are not seeing things that are. To make it more formal, disinformation is incomplete or inaccurate information designed to mislead you about another’s intentions or abilities. When used in international politics, espionage, or intelligence, it also means the deliberate production and dissemination of falsehoods, fabrications, and forgeries aimed at misleading an opponent or those supporting an opponent.
One of the things that should be of concern is that, once you discover the concept of business disinformation, and it is more prevalent than you think, you may be tempted to engage in disinformation yourself. Stop right there!
Why stop? Because using disinformation, under any criteria, is wrong. Let me explain:
- In some contexts disinformation is illegal, such as disinformation generated by a public company as to its financial state.
- Disinformation is corrosive. By that I mean that, for disinformation to truly work, many of those involved in communicating the disinformation to its target must actually believe in and act in accord with the disinformation. Once the disinformation is unmasked, the source of the disinformation will lose credibility. In the business context, this means the company will lose credibility with its employees, because they have been misled in an effort to trick a competitor.
- Disinformation is always unethical, and if you do not understand why then you have some reading and thinking to do about ethics. Disinformation, if taken too far, can cross over into fraud. But even when it does not cross over, it is great gray, and, frankly distasteful, area between strict honesty and fraud.
How can you spot disinformation aimed at you (or others)? We will talk about that in the future.