Disinformation is a subset of propaganda and is false information that is spread deliberately to deceive. It is also known as black propaganda.[1][2][3] It is sometimes confused with misinformation, which is false information but is not deliberate.[4]

The English word disinformation is from the application of the latin prefix dis- to information making the meaning "reversal or removal of information". The rarely used word had appeared with this usage in print at least as far back as 1887.[5][6][7][8] Some consider it a loan translation of The Russian dezinformatsiya,[1][2][3] derived from the title of a KGB black propaganda department.[9] Defector Ion Mihai Pacepa claimed Joseph Stalin coined the term, giving it a French-sounding name to claim it had a Western origin.[1] Russian use began with a "special disinformation office" in 1923.[10] Disinformation was defined in Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1952) as "false information with the intention to deceive public opinion".[1][2][11] Operation INFEKTION was a Soviet disinformation campaign to influence opinion that the U.S. invented AIDS.[1][11][12] The U.S. did not actively counter disinformation until 1980, when a fake document reported that the U.S. supported apartheid.[13]

The word disinformation did not appear in English dictionaries until 1939.[14][1][2] English use increased in 1986, after revelations that the Reagan Administration engaged in disinformation against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.[15] By 1990, it was pervasive in U.S. politics;[16] and by 2001 referred generally to lying and propaganda.[17][18]