Digital Epistemic Fakes: From Fake News to Chatbots

Speaker 2023

This talk explores the concept of epistemic fakes in the digital age, including such digital fakes as fake news, deepfakes, fake identities, bots, astroturfing, chatbots, and generative AI-produced photorealistic images. Epistemic fakes present a significant challenge to the authenticity and reliability of epistemic resources, such as testimony, photographic evidence, and institutional sources like science and journalism. These resources play a crucial role in our pursuit of knowledge, rendering the presence of epistemic fakes particularly detrimental to our ability to ascertain the truth. By investigating the distinct epistemic and ethical harms caused by digital fakes, we lay the groundwork for developing effective strategies to combat them.

In the first part of the talk, we leverage philosophical work on forgeries and counterfeits to define the concepts of a Fake and an Epistemic Fake, which allows us to delineate the core epistemic harms of digital fakes.  This account is a generalization of our earlier work on Fake News (Fallis and Mathiesen 2019).  We distinguish it from, and defend it against, other related accounts of digital fakes (Pepp et al. 2019, Grundmann 2020, Anderau 2021, Harris 2022, Dennett 2023).

In the latter part of the talk, we describe how the epistemic harms of digital fakes can give rise to moral harms. Drawing upon Mathiesen’s (2015) concept of Informational Justice, we analyze how the proliferation of digital fakes creates an unjust informational environment.


Don Fallis

Other authors:  

Kay Mathiesen

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Digital Humanities Tilburg