"Living a fully ethical life involves doing the most good we can." - Peter Singer
"Common sense is not so common." - Voltaire
“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

Monday, April 3, 2017

Conviction, persuasion and manipulation: the ethical dimension of epistemic vigilance

Johannes Mahr
Cognition and Culture Institute Blog
Originally posted 10 March 2017

In today’s political climate moral outrage about (alleged) propaganda and manipulation of public opinion dominate our discourse. Charges of manipulative information provision have arguably become the most widely used tool to discredit one’s political opponent. Of course, one reason for why such charges have become so prominent is that the way we consume information through online media has made us more vulnerable than ever to such manipulation. Take a recent story published by The Guardian, which describes the strategy of information dissemination allegedly used by the British ‘Leave Campaign’:
“The strategy involved harvesting data from people’s Facebook and other social media profiles and then using machine learning to ‘spread’ through their networks. Wigmore admitted the technology and the level of information it gathered from people was ‘creepy’. He said the campaign used this information, combined with artificial intelligence, to decide who to target with highly individualised advertisements and had built a database of more than a million people.”
This might not just strike you as “creepy” but as simply unethical just as it did one commentator cited in the article who called these tactics “extremely disturbing and quite sinister”. Here, I want to investigate where this intuition comes from.

The blog post is here.
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