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Dictionary.com’s Word of the Year Is ‘Misinformation’—a Slap at High Tech

Dictionary.com today announced its word of the year is “misinformation.” The site’s definition of the word is “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.”

“The rampant spread of misinformation is really providing new challenges for navigating life in 2018,” said Jane Solomon, linguist-in-residence at Dictionary, to the Associated Press.

According to Solomon, the difference between misinformation and disinformation is important. The latter refers to attempts to mislead. With the word of the year, wrong information is perpetuated by accident or error. However, misinformation can lead to disaster and death, such as violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, riots in Sri Lanka, and mob violence in India.

Dictionary.com has done a lot of work on defining and updating related terms, including echo chamber, confirmation bias, filter bubble, conspiracy theory, fake news, post-fact, post-truth, homophily, influencer, and gatekeeper.

But a big reason that misinformation got the nod is the role that technology has played in spreading false information. Social media has made it easier than ever to share hate speech, rumors, false stories, satire perceived as straight reporting, and doctored images.

It has become a deluge that flows in fast. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube have faced sharp criticism for their failure to stem the tide.

Dictionary.com says that it isn’t just the realm of politics that faces an impact. The environment and medical information have both faced challenges.

Some of the other words under consideration were representation, self-made, and backlash.

The Oxford word of the year was “toxic,” with many aspects of culture being denoted by the term.