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(Why) is misinformation a problem?

Accepted version
Peer-reviewed

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Article

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Authors

Adams, Z 
Bechlivanidis, C 
Meder, B 

Abstract

In the last decade there has been a proliferation of research on misinformation. One important aspect that receives less attention is why exactly misinformation is a problem. To adequately address this question, we must first look to its speculated cause(s) and effect(s). We examine different disciplines (computer science, economics, history, information science, journalism, law, media, politics, philosophy, psychology, sociology) that investigate misinformation. The consensus view points to advancements in information technology (e.g., internet, social media) as a main cause of the proliferation and increasing impact of misinformation, with a variety of illustrations of the effects. We critically analyse both issues. As to the effects, misbehaviors are not yet reliably demonstrated empirically to be the outcome of misinformation, where correlation as causation may have a hand. As to the cause, advancements in information technologies enable, as well as reveal, multitudes of interactions that implies significant deviations from ground truths through people’s new way of knowing (intersubjectivity). This, we argue, is illusionary when understood in light of historical epistemology. Both doubts we raise are used to consider the cost to established norms of liberal democracy that come from efforts to target the problem of misinformation.

Description

Keywords

correlation versus causation, free speech, intersubjectivity, misinformation and disinformation

Journal Title

Perspectives on Psychological Science

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

1745-6916
1745-6924

Volume Title

Publisher

SAGE Publications