Sharing (mis) information on social networking sites. An exploration of the norms for distributing content authored by others

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Abstract

This article explores the norms that govern regular users’ acts of sharing content on social networking sites. Many debates on how to counteract misinformation on Social Networking Sites focus on the epistemic norms of testimony, implicitly assuming that the users’ acts of sharing should fall under the same norms as those for posting original content. I challenge this assumption by proposing a non-epistemic interpretation of (mis) information sharing on social networking sites which I construe as infrastructures for forms of life found online. Misinformation sharing belongs more in the realm of rumour spreading and gossiping rather than in the information-giving language games. However, the norms for sharing cannot be fixed in advance, as these emerge at the interaction between the platforms’ explicit rules, local norms established by user practices, and a meta-norm of sociality. This unpredictability does not leave us with a normative void as an important user responsibility still remains, namely that of making the context of the sharing gesture explicit. If users will clarify how their gestures of sharing are meant to be interpreted by others, they will implicitly assume responsibility for possible misunderstandings based on omissions, and the harms of shared misinformation can be diminished.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEthics and Information Technology
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Epistemic norms
  • Forms of life
  • Gossip
  • Language games
  • Misinformation
  • Posting
  • Responsibility
  • Rumour
  • Sharing
  • Social media
  • Social networking sites

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