CFA: Beyond Fake News: Mitigating Epistemically Toxic Content – An International Online Workshop (University of Haifa/Zefat Academic College)
In 2016, “fake news” took center stage as a contributor to surprising political events. Reluctant to do so at first, Facebook and Twitter have since taken steps to fight dubious posts, and have drawn on independent fact checkers to validate and flag stories that are reported as fake by users. Misinformation spreaders have not rested on their laurels either. They have started creating deepfakes, namely, artificial realistic faces and videos that make it appear as if people said or did something they didn’t, and artificial intelligence-generated images to create seemingly real profile pictures on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to lend the users an air of credibility. At the same time, individuals are regularly posting and sharing misinformation and disinformation without any apparent help or encouragement from malign actors, often without malevolent intent.
The category of “epistemically toxic content,” of content that is false, unsubstantiated or misleading is wider than that of fake news. Much epistemically toxic content is situated in the gray area between absolute truth and utter falsehood. Epistemically toxic content, its types and manifestations, the mechanisms of its spreads, and effective ways to fight it are still only partially understood by academic researchers. And many suggested solutions to the problem are problematic. Tasking Internet mega corporations with filtering content for truth and falsehood may prove as a cure that is worse than the disease. States do not have a good track record regulating free flow of politically inconvenient information either.
The workshop aims at advancing the study of epistemically toxic content online and ways to mitigate its spread, by bringing together philosophers and researchers in other relevant disciplines, including cognitive science, communications and media studies, Science and Technology Studies, and information systems. The workshop is part of the ISF funded project “Skepticism about Testimony,” and is organized by Arnon Keren (University of Haifa), Boaz Miller (Zefat Academic College), and Aviv Barnoy (University of Haifa and Zefat Academic College). Confirmed participants include:
Sacha Altay, Institut Jean Nicod
Anat Ben David, The Open University of Israel
Sarit Barzilai, The University of Haifa
Karen Frost-Arnold, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Axel Gelfert, The Technical University of Berlin
Thi Nguyen, University of Utah
Isaac Record, Michigan State University
Richard Rogers, University of Amsterdam
We welcome submissions by academic researchers in philosophy, cognitive science, communications and media studies, Science and Technology Studies, information systems, and related disciplines, who study different theoretical and empirical aspects of epistemically toxic content. Submissions from early-career scholars and members of underrepresented groups in academia are especially welcome. Please send abstract of about 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 3, 2021. Please include your name, email, and institutional affiliation. Accepted scholars are expected to give an approximately 20-minute talk followed by a Q&A session. Presenting scholars are requested to participate in the workshop throughout its duration.
March 3, 2021: deadline for abstract submission.
March 10, 2021: notification of acceptance.
April 21-22, 2021: online workshop. The workshop is scheduled to take place each day after 3pm GMT.
Please send any questions to email@example.com.