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False statement

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A false statement, also known as a falsehood, falsity, misstatement or untruth, is a statement that is false or does not align with reality. This concept spans various fields, including communication, law, linguistics, and philosophy. It is considered a fundamental issue in human discourse. The intentional dissemination of misstatements (disinformation) is commonly termed as deception or lying, while unintentional inaccuracies may arise from misconceptions, misinformation, or mistakes.

Although the word fallacy is sometimes used as a synonym for false statement, that is not how the word is used in most formal contexts.



  • Intention: Misstatements can be made deliberately with the intent to deceive or unintentionally due to misconception.
  • Consequences: Impact of misstatements can vary, ranging from minor misconceptions to significant societal repercussions. In legal contexts, making false statements can have serious repercussions such as defamation, fraud, or perjury. The accuracy of statements is pivotal in maintaining trust within interpersonal relationships, professional settings, and broader societal structures.


  • Lie: Deliberate misstatement intended to deceive.
  • Misinformation: Inaccurate information spread without the intent to deceive.
  • Disinformation: Misinformation spread with the intent to deceive and manipulate opinions.

Causes and Motivations[edit]

Understanding the motivations behind misstatements is complex. Individuals may lie to protect themselves, gain an advantage, manipulate perceptions, or evade accountability. Psychological factors, societal pressures, and cognitive biases can contribute to the inclination to make misstatements. Cognitive dissonance may also play a role when individuals resist acknowledging the falsity of their statements.

The ethics surrounding misstatements are multifaceted. Honest communication is often considered a fundamental value, but ethical dilemmas may arise in situations where the truth conflicts with other moral principles or when individuals face personal or professional consequences for honesty.

Detection and Correction[edit]

  • Fact checking: Verification of statements through fact-checking organizations helps identify and correct misinformation.
  • Technology plays a role in both the spread and prevention of misinformation, with algorithms and artificial intelligence being employed to identify and combat false narratives.
  • Media literacy: Promoting media literacy can empower individuals to critically evaluate information and discern between true and false statements.

Historical Examples[edit]

  • Propaganda: Throughout history, misstatements have been used in propaganda to manipulate public opinion during times of war or political unrest.
  • Political campaign: Throughout history, misstatements have played significant roles in shaping narratives, influencing public opinion, discrediting dissidents and affecting political landscapes.

In law[edit]

In some jurisdictions, false statement is a crime similar to perjury.

United States[edit]

In U.S. law, a "false statement" generally refers to United States federal false statements statute, contained in 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Most commonly, prosecutors use this statute to reach cover-up crimes such as perjury, false declarations, and obstruction of justice and government fraud cases.[1] Its earliest progenitor was the False Claims Act of 1863,[2] and in 1934 the requirement of an intent to defraud was eliminated to enforce the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) against producers of "hot oil", oil produced in violation of production restrictions established pursuant to the NIRA.[3]

The statute criminalizes a government official who "knowingly and willfully":[4]

(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Strader, Kelly J. Understanding White Collar Crime (2 ed.).
  2. ^ Hubbard v. United States, 514 U.S. 695 (1995)
  3. ^ United States v. Gilliland, 312 US 86, 93-94 (1941) ("Legislation had been sought by the Secretary of the Interior to aid the enforcement of laws relating to the functions of the Department of the Interior and, in particular, to the enforcement of regulations under Sec. 9(c) of the [NIRA].").
  4. ^ 18 U.S.C. § 1001