SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Fake News: A Logical Analysis of their Spreading
(Epistemology, English)

Fake news got the headlines both in the academic community (see Lazer et al. (2018)) and in the mainstream media. However, a logical analysis of this phenomenon is until now absent.

The aim of our work is to fill in this gap. An informal characterization of fake news can be found in Lazer et al. (2018, p. 1094), where they are defined as "fabricated information that mimics news media in content form but not in organizational process or intent". We start our analysis by providing a model that aims to capture the spreading of fake news. This part of the work is based on recent literature on the spreading of opinion, viruses and the like, such as Baltag et al. (2018) and Christoff (2016), and it is based on the formal treatment of social networks through graph theory, as in Easley & Kleinberg (2010).

We provide a model where two groups of agents, the spreaders and the receivers, interact. Fake news, as said, mimics the news. Intuitively, this is done by the spreaders having an agenda that settles the news that they will spread. We capture that by defining a subset of the spreaders indexed by a set of formulas.

The receivers get the news but are sensible to their sources: they trust some spreaders but not others. This feature is captured by a function that settles which level of trust each receiver assigns to each spreader. Moreover, receivers can have criteria to accept the news. For example, only news that are announced by a good number of trusted spreaders are adopted. We model that through a threshold function that assigns to each receiver a threshold over which the news is accepted.

With this setting, we capture the spreading of fake news within a network of receivers that do not act as news-spreaders themselves. In order to capture this other behaviour, we define a function that, given an agent in the model, assigns a level of trust to each other agent, be it a spreader or a receiver. In that way, the spreading of the fake news becomes not only sensible to the quality of the source, but also on the behaviour of the other agents in the network. Moreover, we show that in that setting knowledge of the networks' structure plays a crucial role in the spreading of news.

Our work connects the phenomenon, as well its analysis, with analogous works in formal epistemology and economics concerning the spreading of opinions, behaviours, and even diseases.

Chair: Madelaine Angelova-Elchinova
Time: 12:00-12:30, 20 September 2019 (Friday)
Location: HS E.002

Filippo Riscica Lizzio 
(ILLC, University of Amsterdam, Italy)

I was born in Catania, where I studied Philosophy as an undergraduated. I graduated there in 2015 with a dissertation about the debate concerning the analytic synthetic distinction. I then studied philosophy as a graduate student at the University of Bologna. There I specialized in philosophy of language and logic. While at the University of Bologna, I was an Erasmus student at the University of Helsinki, where I studied modal logic and metaphysics, and a visiting student that the University of Nottingham, where I studied metaphysics. I am currently a Logic Year student at the ILLC, University of Amsterdam, where I am studying mainly modal logic and formal epistemology.

Vita Saitta 
(University of Turin & ILLC, University of Amsterdam, Italy)

I studied Philosophy in Milan at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart, where I obtained my BA with a dissertation concerning paraconsistent logics and by MA with a dissertation concerning logical pluralism. I am now a PhD student at the FINO Northwestern Italian Philosophy Consortium where I am developing a project concerning rejection and negation. I am also studying at the ILLC, University of Amsterdam, where I am studying formal epistemology and modal logic.

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