COVID-19 Misinformation and Disinformation on Social Networks – The Limits of Veritistic Countermeasures

08/03/2020 ∙ by Andrew Buzzell, et al. ∙ 0

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the subject of a vast amount of misinformation, particularly in digital information environments, and major social media platforms recently publicized some of the countermeasures they are adopting. This presents an opportunity to examine the nature of the misinformation and disinformation being produced, and the theoretical and technological paradigm used to counter it. I argue that this approach is based on a conception of misinformation as epistemic pollution that can only justify a limited and potentially inadequate response , and that some of the measures undertaken in practice outrun this. In fact, social networks manage ecological and architectural conditions that influence discourse on their platforms in ways that should motivate reconsideration of the justifications that ground epistemic interventions to combat misinformation, and the types of intervention that they warrant. The editorial role of platforms should not be framed solely as the management of epistemic pollution, but instead as managing the epistemic environment in which narratives and social epistemic processes take place. There is an element of inevitable epistemic paternalism involved in this, and exploration of the independent constraints on its justifiability can help determine proper limits of its exercise in practice.

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