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2023 | Buch

Truth and Fake in the Post-Factual Digital Age

Distinctions in the Humanities and IT Sciences


Über dieses Buch

The increase in fake news, the growing influence on elections, increasing false reports and targeted disinformation campaigns are not least a consequence of advancing digitalisation. Information technology is needed to put a stop to these undesirable developments. With intelligent algorithms and refined data analysis, fakes must be detected more quickly in the future and their spread prevented. However, in order to meaningfully recognize and filter fakes by means of artificial intelligence, it must be possible to distinguish fakes from facts, facts from fictions, and fictions from fakes. This book therefore also asks questions about the distinctions of fake, factual and fictional. The underlying theories of truth are discussed, and practical-technical ways of differentiating truth from falsity are outlined. By considering the fictional as well as the assumption that information-technical further development can profit from humanities knowledge, the authors hope that content-related, technical and methodological challenges of the present and future can be overcome.


1. Truth Relativism, Science Skepticism and the Political Consequences
In his book Post-Truth, Steve Fuller, a leading exponent of Science and Technology Studies, defends truth relativism, criticizes scientific expertise, and argues that we are living since a long time in a post-truth age. Fuller views science as a power game, where power decides what is true and what is false. Donald Trump is particularly good at this power game and knows how to pass his personal opinion as a definite truth. The example of Fuller will be used to show how truth relativism and science skepticism contribute to the emergence of a post-truth society and may threaten democracy.
Thomas Zoglauer
2. Of Fakes and Frauds: Can Scientific “Hoaxes” Be a Legitimate Tool of Inquiry?
The history of science amply demonstrates that science is not immune to honest mistakes, nor to fraud and misconduct. While the former are minimized by discipline-specific methodologies, the latter are supposed to be kept in check by professional ethics guidelines of good scientific practice. But what happens when “fakes” are produced with the best of intentions and the greatest of scientific skill – in other words, when the scientific tools of the trade are turned into a “forger’s workshop”? In the case of hoaxes, the artful faking of scientific results is often combined with the enlightened claim to denounce scientific grievances – e.g. ideological distortions or a lack of critical awareness. In contrast to mere falsifications, hoaxes aim at their own exposure; they necessarily remain selective, yet pretend to be representative and generally valid. Using the so-called “Sokal Squared” hoax as an example, it is argued that the lofty claim of its originators is difficult to vindicate. Scientific hoaxes face a dilemma: The deliberate violation of scientific norms that makes their implementation possible in the first place runs the risk of disqualifying hoaxes as empirical tools of epistemic inquiry.
Axel Gelfert
3. Fiction, Fake and Fact: A Set-Theoretic Modeling Together with a Discussion of Represented Worlds
Following Aristotle, factuality, fictionality and fake are differentiated exclusively on the level of content. The concrete starting point for this is Michael Titzmann’s proposal to understand represented worlds as a set of ordered propositions. Accordingly, the necessary set-theoretical foundations are presented step by step and, on the basis of three exemplary represented worlds, a one-to-one differentiation as well as an exact definition of factuality, fictionality and fake is undertaken. Based on this, the limits of a one-to-one model can be discussed and its possible modification can be shown. Independently of this, for the classification of a represented world as factual, fictional or fake, the conception of which propositions are true in the real world is crucial, which is why, after a consideration of philosophical theories of truth, the real world is modelled as a set of sufficiently proven represented worlds. Subsequently, it is shown that it is necessary to model indeterminacy with respect to propositions, which is solved by means of the introduction of trivalence of truth values. The paper concludes with a discussion of the case-specificity and subjectivity of reality and their implications for the model presented here, showing that due to the relational approach the model remains productive even in the case of the assumption of subjective or “alternative” realities.
Peter Klimczak
4. Stranger than Fiction: On Alternative Facts and Fictional Epistemologies
Starting from the term ‘alternative facts’ and its epistemological implications, three fields of discourse are brought together: that of the public rhetoric of a new political ‘Generation Fake’, that of postmodern or post-structuralist media theory, and that of fictional epistemologies as found in examples of postmodern literature and contemporary film. The aim of this is to examine the epistemological content of the new political rhetoric of the postfactual, on the one hand with regard to the theory of reality on which it is based, and on the other hand with regard to the theory of truth that it challenges.
Christer Petersen
5. The Marxist-Leninist Definition of Fascism and the Berlin Wall: Individual Consequences of Fake News and Conspiracy Theories Spread by the Media
Dieter Hötger was imprisoned in 1962 in the detention hospital of the central MfS (Ministry of State Security) detention center Berlin-Hohenschönhausen because he had tried to smuggle his wife and her children to West Berlin with the help of a tunnel – bypassing the Anti-Fascist Protection Wall. Based on the media coverage of his case, the verdict of the trial as well as the internal investigation records, the essence of fake news is elaborated. This is placed in a context with the definition of fascism according to Georgi Dimitrov that prevails in Marxism-Leninism – the core element of the charges against Hötger – and thus its conspiracy-theoretical potential is demonstrated. Afterwards, the text describes the from the Dimitrov thesis derived anti-fascism as the GDR’s founding myth, before going on to discuss in the concluding sections its media treatment in news media as well as in fictional film and series productions of the GDR, specifically in relation to the building of the Anti-Fascist Protection Wall.
Andreas Neumann
6. Caution: Possible “Fake News” – A Technical Approach for Early Detection
This chapter is intended to supplement the discussion of fake news in this book with an explanation of whether and under what conditions it is possible to automatically detect fake news or at least to mark corresponding posts with a warning. An important goal of this presentation is to keep the explanations, especially the information science aspects, as generally understandable as possible. The explanations are given with reference to a tool which – limited thematically – performs such a marking.
Albert Pritzkau, Ulrich Schade
7. Countering Fake News Technically – Detection and Countermeasure Approaches to Support Users
The importance of dealing with fake news has increased in both political and social contexts: While existing studies mainly focus on how to detect and label fake news, approaches to help users make their own assessments are largely lacking. This article presents existing black-box and white-box approaches and compares advantages and disadvantages. In particular, white-box approaches show promise in counteracting reactance, while black-box approaches detect fake news with much greater accuracy. We also present the browser plugin TrustyTweet, which we developed to help users evaluate tweets on Twitter by displaying politically neutral and intuitive warnings without generating reactance.
Katrin Hartwig, Christian Reuter
8. NewsDeps: Visualizing the Origin of Information in News Articles
In scientific publications, citations allow readers to assess the authenticity of the presented information and verify it in the original context. News articles, however, for various reasons do not contain citations and only rarely refer readers to further sources. As a result, readers often cannot assess the authenticity of the presented information as its origin is unclear. In times of “fake news,” echo chambers, and centralization of media ownership, the lack of transparency regarding origin, trustworthiness, and authenticity has become a pressing societal issue. We present NewsDeps, the first approach that analyzes and visualizes where information in news articles stems from. NewsDeps employs methods from natural language processing and plagiarism detection to measure article similarity. We devise a temporal-force-directed graph that places articles as nodes chronologically. The graph connects articles by edges varying in width depending on the articles’ similarity. We demonstrate our approach in a case study with two real-world scenarios. We find that NewsDeps increases efficiency and transparency in news consumption by revealing which previously published articles are the primary sources of each given article.
Felix Hamborg, Philipp Meschenmoser, Moritz Schubotz, Philipp Scharpf, Bela Gipp
Truth and Fake in the Post-Factual Digital Age
herausgegeben von
Peter Klimczak
Thomas Zoglauer
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Print ISBN