What is misinformation and online harm?

There is misinformation and online harm about COVID-19 and vaccines in many places. Find out what it means.

3 kinds of misinformation

There are 3 kinds of misinformation:

  • Mis-information: Information that is false, but not created with the intention of causing harm.
  • Dis-information: Information that is false and was created to harm a person, social group, organisation or country.
  • Mal-information: Information that is based on reality, used to inflict harm on a person, organisation or country.

You might see all of them on social media, including memes, on websites, videos, and in publications, like pamphlets that arrive in your letterbox. 

They can cause harm because you might make decisions about your health based on the incorrect information that you read or hear.  

Often misinformation is not deliberately created to harm you. 

But it is really important that you do not share it, so that it does not spread.

What is online harm?

Harmful online content includes cyberbullying and inappropriate material, such as violent and sexual material that can cause emotional and physiological distress.

Online bullying

Online bullying (also known as cyberbullying) occurs when someone uses digital technology to send, post or publish content intended to cause harm to another person.

It can include:

  • abusive and hurtful messages, images or videos
  • repeated unwanted messages
  • spreading gossip and lies
  • fake accounts used to humiliate or harass someone
  • excluding others online
  • embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles
  • sharing personal or identifying information about someone without their consent (doxxing)

Distressing content

Netsafe describes distressing content as content that is hateful content, sexual material or illegal material (like age-restricted material or extreme violence).

Offensive or illegal content may include topics, images or other information that could be prohibited in New Zealand. The content can also be upsetting to a young person when they discover it.

It is illegal for anyone to send or publish threatening, offensive or sensitive material and damaging rumours.

More information

Netsafe has more information, advice and resources about how to stay safe online. 

Netsafe | netsafe.org.nz (external link)

Keep It Real Online has information for tamariki (children) and rangatahi (young people) about being safe online, and also has tools and resources for parents and caregivers. 

Keep It Real Online | keepitrealonline.govt.nz (external link)

What is misinformation?

Follow our whānau as they visit a museum to see an exhibition called 'A Brief History of Misinformation'.

As they explore the displays, they find out what an infodemic is, learn how to talk with those close friends and family affected by misinformation, as well as how to deal with misinformation on social media.

Watch video

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