Disinformation and new propaganda can take many forms. From the use of false visuals or misleading headlines, to social media techniques, which create an impression that the “majority” understands an issue in a certain way. In the echo chamber of the modern information space, the spreading of disinformation is as easy as a Tweet, a Like, or a Share. These techniques are some of the most commonly used for spreading false stories and misleading information.
Misleading title – Facts or statements in the article are correct, or mostly correct, but the title is misleading.
No proof – Facts or statements are not backed up with proof or sources.
Card stacking – Facts or statements are partially true. This occurs when information is correct, but it is offered selectively and/or key facts are omitted. This technique is typically used to guide audiences to a desired conclusion, namely one that fits into a pre-fabricated/false narrative.
False facts – Facts or statements are false or manipulated. For example, an interview mentioned in an article never took place; or an event or incident featured in a news story did not actually occur.
False visuals – A variant of false facts, this technique employs the use of fake provocative visual material. Its purpose is to lend extra credibility to a false fact or narrative.
Denying facts– A variant of “False facts,” this occurs when true facts are denied or wrongly undermined. The facts of an event might be reported, but an attempt is made to discredit their veracity. Alternatively, the facts may re-interpreted to achieve the same effect: to establish doubt in the minds of the audience over the validity of a story or narrative.
Exaggeration and over-generalization – This method dramatizes; raises false alarms; or uses a particular premise to shape a conclusion. A related technique is totum pro parte, or the “whole for a part.” An example: portraying the views of a single journalist or expert as the official view/position of a government.
Changing the quotation, source or context – Facts and statements are reported from other sources, but they are now different than the original. For example, a quotation is correct, but the person to whom it is attributed has changed; or the context of a quote is altered so as to change its meaning or significance in the original story.
Loaded words or metaphors – Using expressions and metaphors to support a false narrative or hide a true one; for example, using a term like “mysterious death” instead of “poisoning” or “murder” to describe the facts of a story.
Ridiculing, discrediting, diminution – Marginalizing facts, statements and/or people through mockery, name-calling (i.e. argumentum ad hominem), and/or the undermining of their authority. The effect is to discredit on non-substantive merits.
“Tu quoque” (“You too”) – Using false comparisons to support a pre-fabricated narrative; or to justify deeds and policies; i.e., “We may be bad, but others are just as bad;” or, “The annexation of Crimea was just like the invasion of Iraq.” The technique is often accompanied by an ad hominem attack.
Narrative laundering – When false facts or narratives are presented by an “expert” of dubious authenticity or credibility. Often, this is done when propaganda outlets mimic the format of mainstream media. A common technique is to feature a guest “expert” or “scholar” on a television program. Once they present a false fact or narrative, it can then be re-packaged for wider distribution. For example, “Austrian media writes that…” or “A well-known German political expert says that…”
Exploiting balance – When otherwise mainstream media outlets attempt to “balance” their reporting (i.e. present different viewpoints) by featuring professional propagandists or faux journalists, experts, etc. The effect is to inject an otherwise legitimate news story or debate with false facts and narratives. The technique is common in televised formats, which feature point-counterpoint debates. Propagandists subsequently hijack a good faith exchange of opposing views.
Presenting opinion as facts (and vice-versa) – When an opinion is presented as fact in order to advance (or discredit) a narrative.
Conspiracy theories – When rumors, myths and/or claims of conspiracy are employed to distract or dismay an audience. Examples include: “NATO wants to invade Russia;” “The United States created the Zika virus;” “Secret Baltic agencies are infecting Russian computers with viruses;” or “Latvia wants to send its Russian population to concentration camps.” A variation of this technique is “Conspiracy in reverse.” This is an attempt to discredit a factual news story by labeling it as a conspiracy.
Join the Bandwagon – Showing or creating the impression that the “majority” prefers or understands an issue in a certain way. The presumed wisdom of the majority lends credence to a conclusion or false narrative; e.g., “People are asking..,” “People want…,” or “People know best.”
False dilemma – When audiences are forced into a false binary choice, typically “us” vs. “them.”
Drowning facts with emotion – A form of the “appeal to emotion” fallacy, this is when a story is presented in such an emotional way that the facts lose their importance. An example is “Lisa case,” where by immigrants to Germany were (falsely) reported to have sexually assaulted a Russian girl. While the event was entirely fabricated, its appeal to emotion distracted audiences from the absence of facts. Common variants of this method evoke post-Soviet nostalgia in CEE states, or stoke public fear of nuclear war.
Creating the context – Most commonly found on broadcast news programs, it creates the context for a pre-fabricated narrative by preceding and following a news story in such a way that it changes the meaning of the news itself. For example, in order to send the message that the terrorist attacks in Europe were caused by EU not working together with Russia (since Russia successfully fought ISIS in Syria and brought peace there), the news shown before the news on Brussel attacks was describing Russia´s success in Syria and its ability to fight ISIS effectively.