Algorithms and Agency: A Nuanced Social Epistemology of the Internet

In this forthcoming paper (2021), I investigate the epistemic aims and effects of social media sites. Some people claim that algorithms for online content selection are designed to maximize circulation, as it makes sense from an advertising point of view to privilege messages that reach many users in a short time, thereby enabling them to reach yet more users. And that, as a result, the digitization of our information landscape is epistemological bad news. But the data doesn’t support that pessimistic narrative, which seems to presuppose a very passive belief-forming process. I make the case that other societal and ethical questions surrounding digital technologies than the ones revolving around fake news and false beliefs are much more pressing.

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