On the moral responsibility to be an informed citizen | Psyche Ideas - Deepstash
On the moral responsibility to be an informed citizen | Psyche Ideas

On the moral responsibility to be an informed citizen | Psyche Ideas

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On the moral responsibility to be an informed citizen | Psyche Ideas

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A wrong view on how to reduce society's misinformation problem

One suggestion to alleviate our society's misinformation problem is that people should take a stronger personal and civic responsibility to be informed and educate themselves in critical thinking and media literacy.

This view puts the primary responsibility for our current informational predicament on individuals. It views them as somehow cognitively deficient. However, this view is mistaken.

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The epistemic condition of responsibility states that one can only be held responsible for outcomes that one caused knowingly. For people to cause actions knowingly, they must be aware of what they are doing, the consequences, and alternatives to the action, and that the action is morally significant.

Accepting the epistemic condition of responsibility raises a complex philosophical question when applied to the proposed responsibility to be informed. Since awareness and knowledge are necessary for responsibility, how knowingly do people know and share things?

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Reasons against the epistemic condition of responsibility

Two arguments support the view that people’s belief-forming and information-sharing behaviour generally does not fulfil the epistemic condition of responsibility.

  1. How people treat new claims are based on previous experiences, which are based on previous experiences etc. But this view would indicate that people's behaviour is only based on an involuntary sequence of events.
  2. People do have some degree of agency. They form ideas from information environments of old and new forms of media, education and cultural institutions and virtual spaces.

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If we accept that citizens are not primarily causally responsible for our poor information environments, they may still have a remedial responsibility to fix them.

However, it is unclear when a person is informed if it will improve information practices.

  • Many people will react defensively to simply being blamed for their ignorance.
  • If responsibility could be articulated without blaming citizens, there is no guarantee that citizens would successfully practice their responsibility to be informed.

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Citizens should be encouraged to do what they can to prevent disinformation. For example:

  • Staying mindful of the sources of online information
  • Pausing to consider the context, bias or the satirical nature of a story before sharing
  • Checking the publication date
  • Disinformation is effective when repeated often, so try to remain critical of outlandish content that you encounter repeatedly.
  • Be aware of cheapfake videos as they create manipulations by conventional editing techniques.
  • Reverse image searches can also reveal suspicious sources for specific images.

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Responsibility of those who have structural control

Leaning away from individual responsibility means that the burden should be shifted to those who have structural control over our information environments.

Solutions include placing accountability and responsibility on technology companies, government, regulatory bodies, traditional media and political parties.

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