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Information disorder ecosystem: concepts, taxonomies, and research agenda


The rise in contamination of the content of information and abnormalities in the production, distribution and consumption of information pose challenges to the  worlds of academics, practitioners, policymakers and the entire community of  media consumers. For time immemorial, information has never been free from  different forms and tactics of manipulation by individuals and states, yet the current  trend is beyond human expectation due to the influence of new information  technologies. 

People live in the era of infodemic and post-truth courtesy of what Brennen, (2020)  called technology affordance that eases deformation. As Horowitz (2018) observed,  the value of trust and facts has been compromised in public debates. The level of trust  human society enjoys is in decline; as distrust between citizens and government,  experts and on-experts, media and audience keeps rising. 

The alarming issues about information disorder are the novel abnormalities and their  effects on the entirety of the human endeavour most notably in recent elections,  climate change and COVID-19 (Cook, et al., 2017, Manalu, Pradekso & Setyabudi,  2018). 

The quest for understanding this phenomenon and ways for addressing the effects  have attracted the attention of academia and administrative fora. The novel  abnormalities transcend the research philosophy of a single discipline, making it an  interdisciplinary field. However, Udupa et al., (2020) observed that as a nascent field of  interdisciplinary inquiry, information disorder studies have yet to find a coherent  framework for theory, definitions, and methods. 

Going through the information disorder literature depicts a clear picture of conceptual  dilemma. Scholars use different labels for different aspects of information disorder:  Fetzer, (2004) false information, Lukasik, Cohn, and Bontcheva, (2015) rumours,  Chakraborty, (2017) clickbaits, Korta, (2018) conspiracy theories, Glenski, Weninger,  and Volkova, (2018) deceptive news, Ilahi, (2019) hoax news, Zhou, et al., (2019) fake  news, Jerit, and Zhao, (2020) misinformation, Broniatowski, et al., (2020), propaganda,  Tolosana (2020) deepfakes Chang, Lewandowsky, (2021) disinformation, and  Mukherjee, & Coppel, (2021) questionable content. 

Among these concepts, misinformation and fake news were the most used concepts  based on the Google Search I conducted on 17th Nov. 2021. Misinformation was mentioned with the exact phrase in any part of publication about 238,000 and mentioned in the titles 6,380. Fake news was mentioned with the exact phrase in any part of related publications about 123,000 and mentioned in the titles 13,400. 

Fake news is more recognised in the titles of publications compared with  misinformation. However, fake news has been identified as a problematic concept  weaponised by politicians and other actors to attack truth and the media profession. A  similar incidence happened to the concept of propaganda especially during the World  wars (Romarheim, 2005). 

Scholars now discourage the use of fake news. That may be one of the reasons for the  decline in the use of the concept; in 2019 for instance, about 2,700 articles published on  Goggle Scholar used fake news in their titles but the number dropped to 1,860 as of  Nov. 2021, while the use of misinformation in titles rises from 514 in 2019 to 1,150 as  in Nov. 2021. 

To avoid fragmentation and grasp the complexity of the information disorder problem,  we need to agree on a common vocabulary and typologies. When trying to tackle a  multidimensional problem we need to be able to clearly define it (Christopoulou,  2018). 

One of the most widely cited works on conceptual definitions and taxonomies of the  information disorder is written by Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan title,  Information Disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and  policymaking and other works by Claire Wardle alone. 

Wardle and Derekhshan’s study sets a new trend by giving an inclusive concept  “information disorder” that explains the whole ecosystem of polluted information. The  work also proposed taxonomies of the information disorder’s elements and tactics  used by agents of information disorder. 

Therefore, guided by critical research inquiry, this paper identified some gaps in the  definitions, taxonomies, and elements given by Wardle and Derekhshan. The paper  gathered information from previous studies and interrogate them with the aim of  setting research agenda that would lead to the development of a common  epistemological ground that will provide common concepts, definitions, taxonomies,  methods, models, and theories for the study of information disorder.

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