The Ethics and Politics of Online Interaction

University of Oxford, May 14-15, 2018

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Speakers

Mark Alfano (Delft University of Technology)

Carissa Véliz (Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics)

Regina Rini (York University, Canada)

Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij (Birkbeck College) 

Maria Paola Ferretti (Normative Orders, Goethe University Frankfurt)

Michael Hannon (University of Nottingham) 

Neil Levy (Macquarie University/Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics) 

Abstract

While the history of moral and political thought has largely focused on problems that arise when two or more individuals interact in a physical setting, we now spend important parts our lives online, and our digital existence raise questions to which contemporary philosophers are increasingly paying attention. Recent philosophical work has shed light on the fact that the internet represents a distinctive social environment which offers new ways of communicating and interacting, but also poses new epistemological, ethical and political problems. Political philosophers and epistemologists, for instance, worry that the epistemic environment found on social media is not conducive to the formation of true justified beliefs, and that it contributes to political polarisation in divided democracies. Others see the cyber sphere in a more positive light and stress the new possibilities that it creates for virtual citizenship, online discussion and ‘e-democracy.’ For their part, moral philosophers worry that anonymous interaction on the internet offers ill-intentioned individuals new means to abuse others, whether this is by invading their privacy through acts of digital piracy or engaging in individual and collective forms of abusive behaviour.

This workshop aims to bring together junior and senior scholars interested in discussing moral and political philosophical questions such as:

  • How does misinformation and echo chambers contribute to polarization in liberal democracies? Can their effects by counteracted by online democratic deliberation?

  • Can democratic states legitimately coerce social networking sites into modifying their online platforms to protect democratic values?

  • What kinds of speech, if any, should be prohibited on the internet? Can such prohibitions realistically be enforced?

  • Is the cybersphere governed by the same moral norms as offline interaction? Does the internet offer us new ways to wrong each other?

  • Can we make the internet a more ethical space? If so, what means are available to us?