Reference and Information Services Section virtual event

Enabling information ethics in a technologically saturated world


7 October 2020




RISS, the Reference & Information Services Section, presents two talks on the theme "Enabling information ethics in a technologically saturated world."

We recognize that new AI-centered technologies can inspire us with their power and ability to discern relevant information, but they lack transparency, too often returning search results that are biased, incomplete, and flawed. The ethical responsibilities of librarians are the focus of this webinar. 

The event will feature two presentations, followed by a Question and Answer session.


  • Matilde Fontanin
    PhD student, University La Sapienza (Italy)
  • Peter Johan Lor
    Research Associate, Department of Information Science, University of Pretoria (South Africa)
  • Johannes Britz
    Professor, School of Information Studies, Univeristy of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (USA)
  • Bradley J. Wiles
    PhD Student, School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (USA)

Matilde Fontanin in her talk "The connecting machine: Librarians' mission after the Fourth Revolution" looks at how ethical issues involved in information sharing affect its evaluation, fair use, privacy and openness. The same technology that generates information can help govern it, disclose science to citizens, and foster social justice. However, technology also stimulates the spread of fake news and misinformation. Raising citizens' awareness on the way algorithms work requires bridging differences among many different disciplines. Librarians and digital humanists could step in as connectors. This paper will review literature, consider recent facts and offer some proposals for the renewed ethical commitment of the digital humanist and the librarian facing new technologies and bearing in mind the IFLA Code of Ethics for Librarians and other Information Workers.

Peter Lor, Johannes Britz, and Bradley Wiles state, in their talk "Outrunning the truth: Information, knowledge and the ethical implications of technology for libraries in the fake news era" that fake news, whether in the form of disinformation, propaganda, or outright deceit, has been deployed in a variety of contexts for centuries. Recently, fake news has been successfully weaponized in modern democracies, which has helped undermine faith in traditional social institutions by creating epistemological uncertainty around consensus-based notions of facts, evidence, and truth. Considering libraries to be important actors in a broad information ecology, librarians have assumed that they have a renewed mission to combat the deleterious effects of fake news but have struggled to formalize comprehensive approaches that are effective and in line with professional values. 

This talk adopts a pragmatic approach to distinguishing truth from information and knowledge in addressing the following questions: 

  • While the rights to information and knowledge are encoded in international agreements and guidelines, is there a fundamental human right to truth? What ethical obligation do libraries have to promote any one conception of the truth over another? 
  • What are the necessary technical, logistic, and conceptual considerations for libraries in developing ethical approaches to
  • fake news in this atmosphere?

We examine recent research, reportage and literature in LIS and related disciplines on the fake news phenomenon and propose an ethics-based framework for library programs and services around the concepts of privacy, accessibility, property, accuracy, and security (PAPAS). The framework incorporates a range of international perspectives with special consideration of Franca d' Agostini's schema of alethic rights (rights to truth). It also considers specific web-centric issues like big data and deep fake technologies alongside ongoing efforts to ensure rights-based digital citizenship in initiatives like the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation.

Join the webinar on 7 October 2020, 16.00 - 17.00 CEST
Check your timezone and save the date!

Audience: IFLA Members and other interested persons

Organiser: Marydee Ojala (

Sponsored by: Reference and Information Services Section

Webinar, Reference and Information Services, Artificial intelligence, Information ethics

Last update: 3 September 2020