The highly networked nature of our informational ecosystem facilitates the mass transmission of false information and nurtures and exploits epistemic vices, such as wilful and insouciant ignorance, on a mass scale. While many of us embraced the internet for its democratising and civic potential in the 1990s, we are now realising and confronting the consequences that new media platforms have for collective and individual epistemic practices in the lives of everyday users of technology. In this paper, we draw from several examples in recent and forthcoming work, including our 2021 book ‘Dupery by design: The epistemology of deceit in a postdigital era’, to contend that platforms which willingly and wilfully create systems that favour deceit over truth in order to pursue profit, erode trust, increase polarisation, threaten political processes, and destabilise society. This is a grim analysis, but we need to be realistic if we hope to confront the prodigality of online deceit, and suggest ways to resist and oppose these vexatious epistemic onslaughts.
Ibrar Bhatt is Lecturer in Education at Queen’s University Belfast. He is Governing Council Member for the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) and Executive Editor for the journal ‘Teaching in Higher Education’. He has active research interests in writing and literacy as a social practice, applied linguistics, and contemporary digital epistemologies.
Alison MacKenzie is Senior Lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast. Her academic background is in Philosophy of Education. She is interested in how injustice and inequality are reproduced and sustained by forms of ignorance, testimonial and hermeneutical injustices, lack of access to important capitals such as linguistic capital, and by the ways in which ordinary vices are often overlooked as important sources of injustice: cruelty, misogyny, hypocrisy.
Both Ibrar and Alison, alongside third author Jennifer Rose, are about to publish a volume entitled ‘Dupery by Design: The Epistemology of Deceit in a Postdigital World’ (published by Springer).