Hypertext Essay: The Nature of Mis/Disinformation

The discussion of the flaws of lay-investigation and crowd-sourced information production is an interesting case of unintentional spread of misinformation. In the case study of Reddit and Twitter users response to the Boston Marathon Bombing misinformation was not spread with the intention to mislead anyone, in fact the intentions were to get to the truth of the matter, but due to an arguable lack of a role morality. the collective objective was to identify a culprit as quickly as possible, rather than to disperse information widely and accurately.

Disinformation and Misinformation are undesirable because “the negligent or purposeful abuse of information, in violation of the epistemological and ethical commitments to which its inherent normative structure gives rise, is also a violation of universal rights – specifically, universal rights to freedom and well-being to which all agents are entitled by virtue of simply being agents, and in particular informational agents that routinely engage in informational actions” (Spence 2011)

In the case of the Boston Marathon Bombing the spread of misinformation through the digital network had very real world negative impacts for people wrongly accused but very little repercussion for those who spread the misinformation. Without a specific commitment to the nature of information and knowledge from the source of that information we cannot truly (and even in some case where there is an assumed commitment) trust the validity of the of that source.

The contrast between the network initiated manhunt and a canonically sanctioned effort can be seen when comparing the case study of the Boston Marathon Bombing to other cases where police as a body of authority issue an appeal for information from the public, providing through their role morality actual information rather than misinformation as the basis for the harnessing of the collective knowledge of the network. Our tangible authorities still remain some of the more trustworthy or easily tested and generally more accountable sources despite our ability to source information from a much wider array of sources than the official ones.

This is why Journalism, despite a late uptake of network technologies by traditional media companies, has become a node in the network society (Castells, 2010; van Dijk, 2012) much as it was before the internet.

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