People, posts, and platforms: reducing the spread of online toxicity by contextualizing content and setting norms

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Abstract
We present a novel model of individual people, online posts, and media platforms to explain the online spread of epistemically toxic content such as fake news and suggest possible responses. We argue that a combination of technical features, such as the algorithmically curated feed structure, and social features, such as the absence of stable social-epistemic norms of posting and sharing in social media, is largely responsible for the unchecked spread of epistemically toxic content online. Sharing constitutes a distinctive communicative act, governed by a dedicated norm and motivated to a large extent by social identity maintenance. But confusion about this norm and its lack of inherent epistemic checks lead readers to misunderstand posts, attribute excess or insufficient credibility to posts, and allow posters to evade epistemic accountability—all contributing to the spread of epistemically toxic content online. This spread can be effectively addressed if people and platforms add significantly more context to shared posts and platforms nudge people to develop and follow recognized epistemic norms of posting and sharing.
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RECPPA-3
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First archival date: 2022-07-23
Latest version: 2 (2022-08-30)
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2022-07-23

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