Media and Information Literacy Series: Learning to Understand Information Pollution

Media and Information Literacy Series: Learning to Understand Information Pollution

One of the major threats to peaceful living and existence in the world recent times is the menace of information pollution. It is a major disease that has continued to pester the world regardless of the divide. From the global North to the South of the world, the problem of information pollution. What then is information pollution? What are the different manifestations of this concept? In what environment or situations do we have information pollution fester?

Information pollution is not a recent term but its impact is assuming a very dangerous dimension in recent times. People are well aware of environmental pollution and its impact on the environment, quality of life and general well-being of the human ecosystem. However, people are coming to terms with the effect a polluted information ecosystem could have on the people. What exactly does it mean?

Information pollution, according to a source, “could broadly be referred to as an outcome information revolution, wherein people are supplied with contaminated information, which is of less importance, irrelevant, unreliable and unauthentic, which lacks exactness and precision, which always has an adverse effect on society at large.” In another source, information pollution is low quality, distracting or incorrect information that causes damage to knowledge and quality of life. 

Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information

So, whatever way it is regarded, information pollution is a situation where the mass of people who need information is supplied with unreliable, misrepresented and untrustworthy facts that are not verifiable. In other words, information pollution is the situation where the information ecosystem is flooded with information that is neither reliable nor trustworthy.Why is IP becoming a more notorious phenomenon and a subject of concern in today’s world?  Majorly, the transition from the industrial economy to knowledge economy has been pointed to as a reason for the negatively prominent roles that information pollution plays in the present day world information ecosystem. Unlike decades before, information has become a resource that affects government, institutions, organizations and individuals. More than ever before, information needs of the world’s inhabitants has approached a very significantly high level. In addition to this reason is the information superhighway that characterizes 21st century life with the internet opening up possibilities that were unimaginable before now. This is coupled with the availability of social media. In videos, photos and texts are the formats of information that people trade in. As a matter of fact, some experts claim that the divide that exists between countries of the world now is about the information haves and the information have nots.

What are the manifestations of Information Pollution? In what ways do we have the information ecosystem polluted and contaminated? UNESCO stipulates that Information Pollution can come in three major forms with different intentions. First, there is disinformation. This implies information that is false and deliberately aimed at harming a person, a social group or even a country. Second, there is misinformation. 

This is false information created with the intention not to cause harm or injury to a person. The third leg is malinformation. This information based on reality, used to inflict injury on a person, social group or organization. With whatever intention, no form of Information Pollution is good for society especially now that the world considers information as a resource.

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