Responsible epistemic technologies: A socialepistemological analysis of autocompleted web search

Boaz Miller, Isaac Record

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1945-1963
Number of pages19
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2016.


  • Autocomplete
  • Autosuggestions
  • Epistemic responsibility
  • Internet
  • Knowledge
  • Search engines
  • Social epistemology


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