Information, Disinformation, and Misinformation

Information, Disinformation, and Misinformation
Barbara Bush: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Two class periods


In 1975, George Bush became head of the Central Intelligence Agency, America’s “spy” organization.  This information-gathering and analysis arm of the federal government is top-secret and, as a result, deals in all 3 modes of intelligence activities noted in the title.


The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint students with three ways of using specific types of data and to assist them in understanding how each is used within the intelligence community.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet.  Access to print materials, especially news magazines and/or newspapers.


Divide the class into small groups. 
Tell them that they are intelligence teams at the CIA Training School.  It is their responsibility to identify a major news story from somewhere in the world (does not necessarily have to appear to relate to the United States).  Try to insure that each group selects a different story.  

Each group’s job is to:

   1.      create a summary of the story that is unbiased (information); 
   2.      look again at the story and identify (then write out) ways in which the events could be reported incorrectly and that would be considered “honest mistakes” (misinformation); 
   3.      examine the story again and look for ways (then write them out) to purposefully distort the data (disinformation) so as to create an international incident or major misunderstanding among allies.  Describe what might take place as a result of the disinformation.
After each group has presented its work, discuss with students the implications of each form of data in today’s global community.

Extending the Lesson:

If the overseas edition of CNN is available, it might prove instructive to compare the treatment of stories on CNN available here with the treatment on CNN international.  Also, a comparison with Reuters would be interesting and informative.

Sources & Resources:


This lesson can be done without any particular websites, but the following treatment of disinformation gives a lucid overview.



This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.