Defeating Fake News; On Journalism, Knowledge, and Democracy

Brian Ball 1
  • 1 New College of the Humanities, WC1B 3HH, London, UK
Brian Ball


The central thesis of this paper is that fake news and related phenomena serve as defeaters for knowledge transmission via journalistic channels. This explains how they pose a threat to democracy; and it points the way to determining how to address this threat. Democracy is both intrinsically and instrumentally good provided the electorate has knowledge (however partial and distributed) of the common good and the means of achieving it. Since journalism provides such knowledge, those who value democracy have a reason to protect it. Hostile agents, however, can undermine both the effectiveness of democratic decision-making and faith in democracy itself, by deliberately promulgating fake news and hyper-partisan views; moreover, these effects can come about unintentionally on social media. I conclude that we may need to change, not just the way we process information online, but also the informational environment in which we operate.

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Moral Philosophy and Politics is an international, peer-reviewed journal for original philosophical articles on issues of public relevance. Of particular interest to the journal are the philosophical assessment of policy and its normative basis, analyses of the philosophical underpinnings or implications of political debate and reflection on the justice or injustice of the social and political structures which regulate human action.