From "Disinfopedia" to "SourceWatch"

early SourceWatch logoIf you're wondering what happened to the "Disinfopedia," our wiki-based "encyclopedia of people, issues and groups shaping the public agenda," it hasn't disappeared. We've just renamed it. It's now called SourceWatch.

Launched in March 2003, the Disinfopedia has grown rapidly to include more than 6,000 articles about PR firms, think tanks, industry-friendly experts and many of the other individuals and institutions that play an important role in shaping public opinion and public policies. We're very happy with the way supporters of our work have stepped forward to contribute information and insights to the project. Along the way, however, we began to hear complaints about the name, which some people felt sounded too "paranoid." Others pointed out that as the Disinfopedia grew, it came to include a range of people and organizations, some of which are indeed guilty of deceptive practices, but not all.

Total Disinformation AwarenessI think that these are legitimate criticisms. I am the person who coined the name "Disinfopedia." It was intended in part as a reference to the Wikipedia, a free, online, wiki-based encyclopedia that runs on the same software. It was also intended as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the Bush administration's ill-fated Total Information Awareness program. Our original logo for the Disinfopedia, which you can see here, even mimicked the TIA's own logo, with its all-seeing eye. Instead of the words "total information awareness," the logo proclaimed that we were seeking "total disinformation awareness." It seemed at the time like a fun inside joke, but after it went up, the emails that arrived in our office helped us realize that the joke wasn't obvious to all of our readers.

After surveying Disinfopedia users and consulting with a number of people who have been friends and advisors to the Center for Media and Democracy, we settled on the new name "SourceWatch." We feel that this name accurately reflects the project's expanded purpose: to track the the people and organizations that serve as sources of information and ideas regarding important public issues.

We have done our best to make this transition as smooth as possible. All links to Disinfopedia articles should now automatically redirect to the same article on the new website. Of course, it is possible that there will be some glitches. If you encounter something that doesn't seem to be working right on SourceWatch, please let us know so that we can fix it.


As a long time admirer of your work, I do worry that the new name is a bit soft. I know you can't please all of the people all of the time, so fair enough if you've come up with SourceWatch after a lot of thinking. But, for what it's worth, the name change sounds ironically like the kind of doublespeak you are always warning against. Why? Because "source" almost sounds like it implies "legitimate". I know that this is far from what you intend, but think about it semantically (or rather, about its connotations). It resonates with words like "origin", "foundation", "font", "spring", "birthplace", and so on. Think source-code, re-source, re-source-ful... I know that these words are accurate from a denotation point of view, but looking at connotation they are all a little too nice. I guess you considered (and rejected) "SpinWatch", "Spinpedia", "Lobbywatch" etc.? Anyway keep up the excellent work. It has been fantastic to see the way the CMD and Disinfopedia/Sourcewatch have thrived in recent years.

I have a question for the people at this website: Would it be ethical for a our organization, Born-Again Democrats™, to use mailing lists developed by unscrupulous Republican direct-mail operators to prey on naïve church-going Americans? We want to use these lists to raise money for ourselves? I ask because, in our case, we would not be misleading these people with impractical – because patently unconstitutional -- proposals to get prayer in the schools, or the ten commandments on the court house walls, etc. Our goals, while culturally conservative, and though you may not agree with them, are perfectly legit. And our mission is clearly stated up front: we plan to recruit a new kind of Democratic candidate for Congress who can defeat Republicans in 2006 throughout red-state America. Another question. If it would be ethical to use such lists, can anyone tell us where or how we might get our hands on some of them? No doubt you will want to check us out. To avoid misunderstanding, you’re better off starting with the blog before moving on to our homepage and platform. Please don’t make snap judgments, and be prepared to think outside the box. Thanks, Luke Lea

Excellent logo! Most of all I like that that you support quality of sources of the information. Some popular editions have burnt through on that that placed unchecked information practically unknown people for a raising of ratings and not understanding who and that has given them. Email me for any questions. [ ReplicaMagazine]