Abstract: Disinformation threatens the virtue of knowledge. The notion of truth becomes corrupted when citizens believe and give credibility to false, inaccurate, or misleading messages. This situation is particularly relevant in the digital age, where users of media platforms are exposed to different sorts of persuasive statements with uncertain origins and a lack of authenticity. How does academia understand the disinformation problem, and are we equipped to offer solutions? In response to this question, our study provides an overview of the general definitions, trends, patterns, and developments that represent the research on disinformation and misinformation. We conducted a systematic review of N = 756 publications covering eight years, 2014–2022. This period captures phenomena such as Trump’s emergence as a candidate for the US presidency, his term in office, as well as the leadership of figures such as Erdogan in Turkey, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India, and various similar populist and nationalist leaders across a range of democratic and semi-democratic societies. This period is also one that witnessed the first global pandemic, when misinformation and disinformation not only threatened societal cohesion but the lives of people. This systematic review explores the critical terminology used, the areas of social life where disinformation is identified as problematic, the sources identified as creating or circulating this material, as well as the channels studied, the targets, and the persuasiveness of the discourse. What this article offers, then, is an overview of what we know about disinformation and what gaps in research should be pursued. We conclude that given the problems that misinformation and disinformation are seen to cause for democratic societies, we need to assess the contribution of social science in providing a foundation for scientific knowledge.
Keywords: credibility; disinformation; fake news; falsehood; hoaxes; misinformation; truth