The Communicative Model of Disinformation: A Literature Note

Research output: Working paperScientific


In recent years, academic research and policy circles alike frequently identify disinformation and fake news as a growing problem in western democracies. This has prompted calls for regulatory intervention. In the name of protecting the circulation of factually correct information and truth, and to protect and facilitate public debate, many public authorities are proposing steps for the regulation of information flows or their platforms. Before the appropriateness of regulatory measures however can be properly assessed, a more fine-grained understanding of the phenomenon of disinformation is required. In this light, this note discusses some recent academic literature, in search of answers to three topical questions from the perspective of policy makers: (1) Does the online mode of communication alter the nature and functioning of disinformation? (2) How do the institutions for creating (and maintaining trust in) public information relate to disinformation? and (3) How do motives other than malignant intentions cause or exacerbate the disinformation phenomenon? The note relies on the concepts of ‘information ecologies’ (Nardi and O’Day, 1999) and ‘flat ontologies’ (Latour, 2005) as heuristic devices to structure recent academic insights regarding disinformation. Accordingly, disinformation is approached as a communicative phenomenon consisting of an ‘assemblage’ of people, practices, values, and technologies. The note describes the basic features of the late modern disinformation phenomenon, discussing in turn the actors, technological features, and drivers that are implicated in it.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHelsinki
PublisherUniversity of Helsinki, Faculty of Law
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

Fields of Science

  • 513 Law

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