Online trust and distrust

Mark Alfano, Emily Sullivan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Trust makes cooperation possible. It enables us to learn from others and at a distance. It makes democratic deliberation possible. But it also makes us vulnerable: when we place our trust in another’s word, we are liable to be deceived-sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. Our evolved mechanisms for deciding whom to trust and whom to distrust mostly rely on face-to-face interactions with people whose reputation we can both access and influence. Online, these mechanisms are largely useless, and the institutions that might supplant them need to have their own trustworthiness verified. Currently, those institutions are mostly corporations such as Facebook and Twitter, which have checkered track records at best. To make matters worse, the social media sector is a natural monopoly, and companies like Facebook have shown that they are willing to use their market power unscrupulously. For these reasons, we argue that social media should be treated like other natural monopolies: it should either be nationalized, highly regulated, or broken up through antitrust legal actions.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Political Epistemology
EditorsMichael Hannon, Jeroen de Ridder
Place of PublicationLondon ; New York
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781000371925, 9780429326769
ISBN (Print)9780367345907, 9780367754686
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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