Social Media and On-line Manipulation

Massimo Renzo – King’s College London

A philosophical analysis of online manipulation on social media platforms focusing on the disruption of democratic processes.

One of the most interesting phenomena in current international politics is the Russian attempt to influence the electoral results of a number of democratic elections, most notably, the 2016 United States election. To be sure, attempts to interfere with the working of democracies elsewhere is not a new phenomenon. What is distinctive about the Russian attempt is that instead of being realized through military intervention or by fomenting a military coup, the interference has been realized by engaging in hacker-related activities and forms of propaganda pursued primarily through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. There seems to be little doubt that the attempt to influence the result of the elections of a democratic country in this way is wrong, but we currently lack an understanding of what the wrong in question is exactly. The phenomenon has received scant attention in the philosophical literature, partly because we currently lack an adequate understanding of how this form of manipulation has taken place. The aim of this project is to remedy this lacuna by providing an account of this intricate moral and legal phenomenon.