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Some Thoughts Evoked by Peter Lor, Bradley Wiles, and Johannes Britz, “Re-thinking Information Ethics: Truth, Conspiracy Theories, and Librarians in the COVID-19 Era,” in LIBRI, March 2021

Thomas Froehlich ORCID logo
From the journal Libri

Abstract

The paper offers some thoughts prompted by the research paper published by Peter Lor, Bradley Wiles, and Johannes Britz, “Re-Thinking Information Ethics: Truth, Conspiracy Theories, and Librarians in the COVID-19 Era,” in LIBRI, March 2021. It highlights two significant contributions, an analysis of the misinformation in the COVID-19 pandemic and the notion of alethic rights, the right of truth of patrons based on the work of D’Agostini. This reflection then situates the COVID-19 misinformation campaign within the broader disinformation ecology within which it exists. While it agrees that alethic rights are an important ethical framework, it wonders whether it practically advances work beyond that libraries and librarians are already doing, e.g., in collection decisions, approaches to reference questions, or library programming. It looks at the debate between John Swan and Noel Peattie on the inclusion of books representing outright lies in the collection (e.g., Holocaust denial). It then contrasts a right to information and authorities propagating and validating that information with a right to misinformation and authorities for propagating and validating that misinformation that exists within disinformation ecologies. The problem of truth, its authorities and its context appears to be more complicated than an appeal to alethic truths: for example, liberals and conservatives differ on the meaning of a rational consensus on contentious political matters, such as climate change. Given the dire consequences of misinformation on democracies and public health, an appeal to professional neutrality is woefully inadequate. There must be proactive resistance, if not outright repudiation.


Corresponding author: Thomas Froehlich, School of Information, Kent State University, Kent, USA, E-mail:

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Published Online: 2021-08-30
Published in Print: 2021-09-27

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