Through a range of linguistic and linguistic-logical techniques, disinformation enters everyday communication and succeeds to pass as credible. In that sense, the biggest challenge with disinformation is to recognize it in a timely manner, before it causes harm. How to fight manipulation and disinformation?

This struggle necessarily involves “refining the personal and civic ability to decipher and expose the manipulative statements to which we are exposed” (Philippe Breton, 2000). This refinement develops a “message analysis culture”. Society and public institutions must give greater importance to understanding the mechanisms of public communication, the reasoning procedures and the methods of manipulation. Citizens must develop the ability to differentiate in practice between the concepts of REALITY and INTENDED MESSAGE.

The following is a continuation of the list of most commonly used language manipulative techniques that can help identify disinformation more easily:

REPETITION – The mechanical repetition of certain false information in order to spread it and make it appear as correct. Repeating it creates an illusory effect of validity, that is, the more people talk about something, the impression is that there is some truth to it (“Where there is smoke, there must be fire”). In today’s world, when almost unlimited reproduction and distribution of information is possible, this technique becomes a powerful weapon for dispersing disinformation. In domestic practice very often certain information is almost automatically transmitted between certain media clusters. This quantitatively increases the presence of certain information in order to increase the likelihood of it being distributed to as many people as possible. Such a well-established distribution network of information can be a determining factor in some disinformation reaching a high number of readers.

TRAPWORDS – are words whose usage automatically summarizes the narrative of a particular issue and by simply using the word itself the narrative is accepted, often together with the disinformation embedded in such articles. These words are much stronger than “labels” and have an extra demagogic charge that proves to be very effective in using language as a “weapon”. As an example of this type, studies refer to the use of the word “terrorist” to denote someone who is far from a terrorist (according to Andrèas Freund, La Mèsinformation, 1991). Such words function as a kind of linguistic conditional reflex and automate the acceptance of disinformation and changing reality.

The word “traitor” is often put to such use, in order to attack a certain compromise or agreement. Interestingly, this term has often been used by both parties in reaching the Prespa Agreement (2018), although it defies logic for both parties to be traitors at the same time. A similar term is the manipulative use of the “puppet government” phrase in inappropriate contexts for political denouncing.

FRAMING – Using a deliberately selected part of the information to place false information. This technique is often used in advertising. For example, expressions like “this detergent washes your laundry better” indicate information, but it is framed by not completing the statement (washes laundry better than what or whom?).

Framing is routinely used in the selective placement of information that does not represent stakeholders, i.e. publishing information only from one side, one point of view or only one source, in order to enhance one side’s interpretation and interest.

Framing is also often used in “click-bait” headlines, as we saw in the case of the incident at the Chair child park in Nish, Serbia (a precise and complete information is lacking in the headline in order to manipulate the reader that the case is from Macedonia).

Framing can be a very effective propaganda tool when used in combination with geographical terms and concepts, such as the following: “A boy from the Balkans committed a robbery”. Such linguistic framing imposes an interpretation that the boy committed robbery because he is from the Balkans.

APPEAL TO AUTHORITY (Argumentum ad autoritatem, lat.) – A not supported reference to authority, the use of the authority of a particular profession or of an expert to place disinformation. From the history of advertising, there are numerous examples from the United States where in the 50s and 60s of the 20th-century cigarette companies used doctors to advertise their products as “beneficial to health”. Apart from the advertising industry, appeal to authority is often used in political communication. A recent example from domestic media was the news “The Lowest in the Region: Macedonia’s National IQ is 82”. The source of the news was the book “The Intelligence of the Nations” by Richard Lynn and David Baker published in 2019, but the details of the so-called “intelligence” are not available. The “nation’s IQ” lacks scientific credentials (a reference is made to obsolete data from 2002). Such insufficiently reliable data can be misused as disinformation in various propaganda purposes.

APPEAL TO THE PEOPLE (Argumentum ad populum, lat.) – An inconsistent argument consisted of appeal to the people, the citizens, or the community. This is claiming that something is true because the majority believes in it. Disinformation, subjectivity partiality about an issue, arbitrariness, etc. they can very easily be hidden behind the alleged will or attitude opinion of the people.

This manipulative technique was often used by Adolf Hitler in his speeches:

Our National Socialist Party of 800,000 votes in 1928, won 6.4 million in 1930, and 17 million in 1933. The German people recognize their own truth.

Reaching the people and the citizens is an essential means of demagogic and populist language. Often an event that has a narrower smaller political impact is projected to “cause agony among the citizens” through this technique. A subtype of this technique is the so-called “Folk psychology”, that is, the notion that “folk-belief understandings are is equaled with argumentation with to scientific facts in regards to argumentation”.

NUMBERS – Numbers, as information with a high degree of accuracy, can often be misused to disinform through various manipulations. Figures can be presented selectively, semi-precisely, extracted from out of context or misinterpreted with manipulative intentions. An example of this is the news “Annual NATO Membership – 200 Million Euros”, where the figure has been arbitrarily increased “in order to create an anti-NATO narrative among the citizens of Macedonia”. According to the Ministry of Defense, the actual amount of the NATO membership fee should range from 1.2m to 1.5m euros aper year., according to the Ministry of Defense.

INCORRECT CONCLUSION (Non sequitur, Non causa pro causa, lat.) – Making a wrong conclusion based on a non-existent causality, i.e. an ungrounded cause-effect relation.

“One who does not fight for the state country to become a full-fledged NATO member and to continue the European integration does not submit his resignation, a SDSM spokesman said on the VMRO-DPMNE leader’s request for the prime minister’s resignation.”

GROUP IDENTIFICATION -– An Occurrence occurrence when members of a particular social group uncritically accept and use disinformation for the sole purpose of identifying themselves as part of that group. This is a kind of fictitious communication where disinformation is a linguistic means of communication between group members. Such a linguistic function is found, for example, in cheerleaders sports anthems and slogans: the primary communicative role is to identify the group and the one who accepts and reproduces it is part of that group. The content and other elements of the anthem are secondary. Unlike fan sports anthems hymns that tend to be used unchanged for a long time, disinformation is constantly changing. New forms and examples perform the same function, affirming the belonging affiliation to a group that advocates and disseminates a particular idea, without critical scrutiny, and even in cases where it is based on disinformation. A similar linguistic function for group identification is to use offensive words and to name the enemy or opponent.

Group identification often co-operates with the technique  UNCRITICAL ATTITUDE which means is “a thought process and a dogmatic attitude that does not require verification of facts and arguments”.

EXPOSURE TO MOCKERY– Mockery can be used as a manipulative technique at the expense of the opponent to render him incapable. The joke always has a good reception and a potential to expand quickly. In the domestic media, journalists often use this technique by quoting ridiculous statuses and posts from social networks (Twitterers Twitter users are making fun of somebody caught fire, Facebook is burnings through with comments, Twitter users did not sleep peacefully). 



  1. Check the publisher

  • Check the website address, check for any unusual quotes (,, or a WordPress platform site or blog.

  • Check if the publisher’s site has an impression ( section designated “for us, newsroom, contact”).

  • Check that whether the media has had previous cases of fake news and disinformation.

  • Check if the text is signed (if it is if the author is known, is are there online references for him, or other data confirming his identity, fake news often has no listed authors).


  1. Check the content

  • check that whether the content of the article agrees with the title (fake news often has a manipulative headline, so-called clickbait).

  • check that whether the text uses valid sources of information (other media, institutions, links and other verifiable sources).

  • check the news release date.

  • check out the photos at, where you can see if a photo has been already published posted before.

  • check that whether the text transmits information from only one page and one source of information.


3.. How to check tweets and statuses

  • check the information by searching for keywords, names, and places, with the help of search engines and news aggregators, making sure that the information is verified at least in at least a few trusted professional media.

  • check out the photos at

  • check if this is the whether it is a so-called “Bot”, see profile details, other content, resume bio, profile picture, time and frequency of posting, and other details that will confirm who the user is (check

  • if the media and online portals cite only sources from social networks, take the information with reserve and ask for confirmation from another source.

  • take a close look at photos and videos, they can often deceive you by selectively displaying only part of the event, or by manipulating focus and contextualizing, checking check the details such as location, background, weather, seasons, clothing, persons, etc.

  •       GOLDEN RULE: The more scandalous the news sounds, the more you have to watch be careful and check the news.


Sead Dzigal




This project was funded in part through a U.S. Embassy grant. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the implementers/authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government.


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