Epistemology in the Cloud

On Fake News and Digital Sovereignty

The paper "Epistemology in the Cloud - On Fake News and Digital Sovereignty" was written up in response to an invitation to the Researcher Centric Scholarly Communication Workshop of The Web Conf 2018 in Lyon. It was then slightly improved and published as a peer reviewed paper in the 2018 Decentralizing the Semantic Web Workshop co-located with the 2018 International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC) in Monterey. That version is missing one important picture and so below is the version that should have made its way there.

The major improvements were to add an abstract to the paper, and to fill in the details of how the institutional web of trust could function. Here is the abstract:

The web is an open platform that allows anyone to publish anything, and so raises anew many epistemological questions: how can one distinguish what is true, what is fake or what is fictional on the web? Indeed how can one know anything at all? We start from an analysis of knowledge that makes space for radical skepticism and which allows us to locate the essential problem with the current web application architecture. This allows us to propose a set of criteria that explicate and justify the decentralised architecture of the internet and the web, and the need for that to be extended to the data and application layer. The proposed architecture is socio-technical, recognising the roles of individuals, institutions and nations in our epistemic makeup. We illustrate this by proposing an architecture of trust that ties these institutions into browsers in a decentralised and open way, allowing them to make the web a more trustworthy space. As a side effect we gain the tools to make some serious inroads in helping combat Phishing.

It is available in the following formats:

  • in PDF format which has many of the properties of a paper book with fixed size pages and so requires a certain size of screen to read.
  • in EPub format, which makes it easier to read on devices of different sizes, including Amazon Kindle, Apple's iBook software, or other

See my write up of The Web Conf workshop for pictures and short subjective summaries of the other presentations.

This page and contents is also available from the Web Archive.

There are a number of follow up articles that go into a lot greater details on different aspects of what was developer here:


Also available is an unzipped ePub directory, which shows the contents of the epub file, which is composed of files fitting many Web Standards. But this as such is not very readable.
But it looks possible with some JS to make those files available and readable as a book using only a web browser. The Web Publication Working Group at the W3C has published some use cases and requirements, and have a prototype demo code contributed by one of its members that may be able to turn en enhanced unzipped epub into a readable page on the web (I am not quite sure yet) -- feedback welcome.