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CSS Colloquium: Keith Harris, University of Bochum

Social Evidence Tampering and the Epistemic Significance of Consensus

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Wednesday 22 November 2023,  at 14:15 - 15:45


Aud G1 (1532-116)

Social epistemologists emphasize our epistemic dependence on others. Whereas many of our beliefs are traceable to individual instances of testimony, some beliefs are traceable and owe their justification to the consensus of epistemic authorities or the public more generally. In principle, social media might facilitate awareness of consensus by providing laypersons with a representative sample of the opinions of experts and the public more widely. Our epistemic dependence on others raises a puzzle for the ideal governance of social media platforms. On the one hand, social dependence on others suggests that the unrestricted flow of misinformation on social media threatens to cause widespread belief in falsehoods. On the other hand, platform interventions in the flow of content threaten to introduce suspicions of bias, and to decrease trust in the representativeness of information found online. In particular, restrictions on content and those who share it threaten to cause the suspicion that apparent consensuses are only apparent. I argue that this concern must be considered in light of the struggles that individuals have in assessing the existence and content of consensuses. Finally, I argue that the ideal response to the challenges described here is to increase trust in the processes whereby content is moderated.