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Evil Online

Dean Cocking , Jeroen Van den Hoven

ISBN: 978-1-405-15437-6

May 2018, Wiley-Blackwell

176 pages

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£14.99

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"I am delighted to offer my highest praise to Dean Cocking and Jeroen van den Hoven's brilliant new book, Evil Online. The confrontation between good and evil occupies a central place in the challenges facing our human nature, and this creative investigation into the spread of evil by means of all-powerful new technologies raises fundamental questions about our morality and values. Cocking and Van den Hoven's account of the moral fog of evil forces us to face both the demons within each of us as well as the demons all around us. In the end, we are all enriched by their perceptive analyses."
Phil Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Stanford University Principal Investigator, Stanford Prison Experiment

"The internet offers new and deeply concerning opportunities for immorality, much of it shocking and extreme. This volume explains with great insight and clarity the corrupting nature of the internet and the moral confusion it has produced. It will play a vital role in the growing debate about how to balance the benefits of the internet against the risks it poses to all of us. Evil Online is an excellent book."
Roger Crisp, Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford

We now live in an era defined by the ubiquity of the internet. From our everyday engagement with social media to trolls on forums and the emergence of the dark web, the internet is a space characterized by unreality, isolation, anonymity, objectification, and rampant self-obsession—the perfect breeding ground for new, unprecedented manifestations of evil. Evil Online is the first comprehensive analysis of evil and moral character in relation to our increasingly online lives.

Chapters consider traditional ideas around the phenomenon of evil in moral philosophy and explore how the dawn of the internet has presented unprecedented challenges to older theoretical approaches. Cocking and Van den Hoven propose that a growing sense of moral confusion—moral fog—pushes otherwise ordinary, normal people toward evildoing, and that values basic to moral life such as autonomy, intimacy, trust, and privacy are put at risk by online platforms and new technologies. This new theory of evildoing offers fresh insight into the moral character of the individual, and opens the way for a burgeoning new area of social thought.

A comprehensive analysis of an emerging and disturbing social phenomenon, Evil Online examines the morally troubling aspects of the internet in our society. Written not only for academics in the fields of philosophy, psychology, information science, and social science, Evil Online is accessible and compelling reading for anyone interested in understanding the emergence of evil in our digitally-dominated world.

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Acknowledgments ix

Preface xi

1 The Many Faces of Evil Online 1

1.1 Introduction 1

1.2 Some Trends and Cases 7

2 Our Online Environment 33

2.1 Introduction 33

2.2 Epistemic Success, Connectivity, and Coordination 39

2.2.1 Epistemic Success 39

2.2.2 Connectivity 40

2.2.3 Coordination 41

2.3 Other Features of Online Worlds that Shape Our Lives 43

2.3.1 Selectivity 43

2.3.2 Homophily and Stigmergy 46

2.3.3 Jurisdiction 47

2.3.4 Anonymity 48

2.3.5 Virtuality 49

2.3.6 Voluntariness 49

2.3.7 Positionality 50

2.3.8 Interpretive Flexibility 51

2.3.9 Interactivity 52

2.3.10 Publicity 53

2.3.11 Domesticity 55

2.3.12 Isolation 56

2.3.13 Addictiveness 57

3 The Transformation of Social Life 59

3.1 Introduction 59

3.2 Our Public and Private Lives: Plural Worlds and Values 61

3.3 Public/Private Lives Online 69

3.4 Life on Your Own Terms 71

3.5 Online/Offline World Contrasts: Overstated and Alarmist 77

3.6 Alarmism about Sexual Predators and Children 79

4 The Moral Fog of Our Worlds 83

4.1 Introduction 83

4.2 The Moral Fog of Evil 86

4.3 The Shared Life and Our Vulnerability to Evil 97

4.3.1 Learning and Development Vulnerabilities 104

4.3.2 The Need for Intimacy 107

4.3.3 Keeping Up with Others 108

4.3.4 Working and Professional Life 110

4.3.5 Plural Identities 113

4.3.6 Incremental and Collective Evils 114

4.3.7 Widely Shared Vice and Weakness 116

5 The Fate of the Moral Life 119

5.1 Introduction 120

5.2 Moral Character: A Case of Mistaken Identity? 120

5.3 Good Character, Self‐interest, Others and Surrounds 124

5.4 Evil and Responsibility 131

5.5 Nothing New Under the Sun 140

5.6 The Liberal 142

5.7 Conclusion: Just Me and the Internet 145

Bibliography 150

Index 157