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The disinformation warfare: how users use every means possible in the political battlefield on social media

Nili Steinfeld (School of Communication, Ariel University, Ariel, Israel)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 28 February 2022

Issue publication date: 4 October 2022




The study aims to investigate the predictors of engaging in combat against the spread of misinformation and disinformation online, and of actively sharing disinformation by users. The study advances an understanding of user active engagement with disinformation as political participation, especially linked to violent activism, in alignment with the view of disinformation as political weapon.


A survey of 502 Israeli internet users inquired into respondents' political participation, trust and orientation, definitions and perceptions of “Fake News,” and previous engagement in sharing misinformation disinformation items, combating or intention to combat against the spread of disinformation.


In addition to identifying predictors for each practice, the findings indicate that sharing and combating against disinformation are closely linked. They are also all directly linked to political participation of various kinds. Most interestingly, working for a political party significantly correlates with knowingly sharing disinformation items, and participating in illegal or violent political activities significantly correlates with knowingly sharing and actively participating in combat against disinformation.


The spread of disinformation online and its implications has received much scholarly as well as public attention in recent years. However, the characteristics of individual users who share or combat against the spread of disinformation online, as forms of political participation, have not been examined. This study fills this gap by inquiring into such practices and the behaviors, perceptions and demographics that predict them.



The study was supported by the Institute for the Study of New-Media, Politics and Society at Ariel University. The author thanks Keren Ben-Shlush, Gal Hubara and Itay Karkason for their assistance in conducting the research and preparing the manuscript.


Steinfeld, N. (2022), "The disinformation warfare: how users use every means possible in the political battlefield on social media", Online Information Review, Vol. 46 No. 7, pp. 1313-1334.



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