Fake News is Counterfeit News
Philosophy Department Visiting Speaker Series
Kay Mathiesen and Don Fallis (University of Arizona
Fake news poses a serious threat to knowledge and democracy. In order to address this threat, it is important to understand exactly what fake news is. After surveying the various definitions that have been proposed in the philosophical literature, we argue that it is best to simply define fake news as counterfeit news. That is, a story is fake news if and only if it is designed to convince people that it comes from a legitimate news outlet when it does not. This analysis is a contribution to “systems-oriented social epistemology” (Goldman 2011). Various social institutions, such as science and journalism, provide important epistemic benefits to society. But unscrupulous agents are often motivated to leverage the epistemic authority of these institutions by counterfeiting them. People can thereby be misled and/or lose faith in these institutions. Thus, society may suffer significant epistemic costs when such counterfeits proliferate.