Autonomy and Online Manipulation

Internet Policy Review 1:1-11 (2019)
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More and more researchers argue that online technologies manipulate human users and, therefore, undermine their autonomy. We call this the MAL view on online technology because it argues from Manipulation to Autonomy-Loss. MAL enjoys public visibility and will shape the academic discussion to come. This view of online technology, however, fails conceptually. MAL presupposes that manipulation equals autonomy loss, and that autonomy is the absence of manipulation. That is mistaken. In short, an individual can be manipulated while being fully personally autonomous. Internet policy researchers should be aware of this point to avoid looking in the wrong place in future research on manipulative and harmful online technology.
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Archival date: 2019-12-19
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