We often default to thinking of misinformation and disinformation as phenomena that thrive mainly in the online world, with fake news and conspiracy theories occasionally spilling over into real life. By viewing these primarily as “digital” threats, however, I fear that we sometimes overlook their broader real-world consequences.
Misleading or false information, whether online or offline, has a very real impact on people’s perceptions and behaviors. At best, it leaves the public confused. At worst, it erodes their trust in facts, science, and expert guidance and can lead them to make unwise choices.