Responsible Epistemic Technologies: A Social-Epistemological Analysis of Autocompleted Web Search

New Media and Society (forthcoming)
Abstract
Information providing and gathering increasingly involve technologies like search ‎engines, which actively shape their epistemic surroundings. Yet, a satisfying account ‎of the epistemic responsibilities associated with them does not exist. We analyze ‎automatically generated search suggestions from the perspective of social ‎epistemology to illustrate how epistemic responsibilities associated with a ‎technology can be derived and assigned. Drawing on our previously developed ‎theoretical framework that connects responsible epistemic behavior to ‎practicability, we address two questions: first, given the different technological ‎possibilities available to searchers, the search technology, and search providers, ‎who should bear which responsibilities? Second, given the technology’s ‎epistemically relevant features and potential harms, how should search terms be ‎autocompleted? Our analysis reveals that epistemic responsibility lies mostly with ‎search providers, which should eliminate three categories of autosuggestions: those ‎that result from organized attacks, those that perpetuate damaging stereotypes, and ‎those that associate negative characteristics with specific individuals.‎.
Keywords autocomplete‎  autosuggestions‎  search engines  epistemic responsibility  social epistemology  knowledge  Internet
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