Epistemology in the Cloud

On Fake News and Digital Sovereignty

Photo taken by Darryl Bush in 1999 for the San Francisco Examiner

Abstract: The web is an open platform that allows anyone to publish anything, and so raises anew many epistemological questions: how can one distinguish what is true, what is fake or what is fictional on the web? Indeed how can one know anything at all? We start from an analysis of knowledge that makes space for radical skepticism and which allows us to locate the essential problem with the current web application architecture. This allows us to propose a set of criteria that explicate and justify the decentralised architecture of the internet and the web, and the need for that to be extended to the data and application layer. The proposed architecture is socio-technical, recognising the roles of individuals, institutions and nations in our epistemic makeup. We illustrate this by proposing an architecture of trust that ties these institutions into browsers in a decentralised and open way, allowing them to make the web a more trustworthy space. As a side effect we gain the tools to make some serious inroads in helping combat Phishing.

The paper “Epistemology in the Cloud — On Fake News and Digital Sovereignty” was written up in response to an invitation to the Researcher Centric Scholarly Communication Workshop of The Web Conf 2018 in Lyon. It was then slightly improved and published as a peer reviewed paper in the 2018 Decentralizing the Semantic Web Workshop part of the 2018 International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC) that will take place this October in Monterey, California . The official published version is missing one important picture and so below is the version that should have made its way there, in one of the following two formats:

  • in PDF format which has many of the properties of a paper book with fixed size pages and so requires a certain size of screen to read.
  • in EPub format, which makes it easier to read on devices of different sizes, including Amazon Kindle, Apple’s iBook software, or other

You can also view the video of my short presentation at ISWC here:

17 minute talk given at the International Semantic Web Conference 2018

Here is a video of a longer talk I gave at Privacy Week in Vienna in October 2018:

See my write up of The Web Conf workshop for pictures and short subjective summaries of the other presentations.

Below are some articles that then further develop themes addressed in the article and talks: