Liars and Trolls and Bots Online: The Problem of Fake Persons

Philosophy and Technology 36 (2):1-19 (2023)
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This paper describes the ways in which trolls and bots impede the acquisition of knowledge online. I distinguish between three ways in which trolls and bots can impede knowledge acquisition, namely, by deceiving, by encouraging misplaced skepticism, and by interfering with the acquisition of warrant concerning persons and content encountered online. I argue that these threats are difficult to resist simultaneously. I argue, further, that the threat that trolls and bots pose to knowledge acquisition goes beyond the mere threat of online misinformation, or the more familiar threat posed by liars offline. Trolls and bots are, in effect, fake persons. Consequently, trolls and bots can systemically interfere with knowledge acquisition by manipulating the signals whereby individuals acquire knowledge from one another online. I conclude with a brief discussion of some possible remedies for the problem of fake persons.

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Keith Raymond Harris
Ruhr-Universit├Ąt Bochum


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