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NET ETHICS: The Moral Philosophy of Web 2.0

NET ETHICS: The Moral Philosophy of Web 2.0



A slide show on the value of internet ethics and its relevance to the emergence of Web 2.0. Prepared for the course STS 2 for UPOU.

A slide show on the value of internet ethics and its relevance to the emergence of Web 2.0. Prepared for the course STS 2 for UPOU.



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    NET ETHICS: The Moral Philosophy of Web 2.0 NET ETHICS: The Moral Philosophy of Web 2.0 Presentation Transcript

      The Moral Philosophy of Web 2.0
      Prepared by Samantha M. Salazar for STS2
    • I. The Internet & Ethics
      In January of 1989, the Internet Architecture Board, a committee charged with oversight of the technical & engineering development of the Internet, issued a statement of policy referred to as the RFC 1087. The document concerns internet ethics, which involves what is deemed as improper internet usage.
      The following is an excerpt from the RCF 1087 (Ethics and the Internet”) with regards to what can be considered as unethical use of the internet.
      The IAB strongly endorses the view of the Division Advisory Panel of the National Science Foundation Division of Network, Communications Research and Infrastructure which, in paraphrase, characterized as unethical and unacceptable any activity which purposely:
      seeks to gain unauthorized access to the resources of the Internet,
      disrupts the intended use of the Internet,
      wastes resources (people, capacity, computer) through such actions,
      destroys the integrity of computer-based information, and/or
      compromises the privacy of users.
      The Internet exists in the general research milieu. Portions of it continue to be used to support research and experimentation on networking. Because experimentation on the Internet has the potential to affect all of its components and users, researchers have the responsibility to exercise great caution in the conduct of their work. Negligence in the conduct of Internet-wide experiments is both irresponsible and unacceptable.
      The next few slides should give you an idea of what we have come to rely on the internet for, and perhaps show you just how much it has become a part of our lives.
      Perhaps one of the earliest and most important functions of the internet for a wide user-base is electronic mail. The need for fax machines and snail mail decreased as more and more people resorted to using the internet to send messages.
      Another important function of the internet that continues to aid us daily is the ability to send and receive messages in real-time. Instant messaging has become a staple for every day life, used in business correspondence, personal chats and even to facilitate class discussions.
      One of the internet’s most current and relevant functions is, unsurprisingly, consumer related. With the birth of websites such as Amazon, consumers have been enabled to shop freely without having to leave the comfort of their own homes.
      With the expansion of the internet and the development of such user-friendly platforms within Web 2.0 to aid users in network-building and information-sharing, the popularity of networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging platforms has sky rocketed.
    • WEB 2.0
      The terminology "Web 2.0" is commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web. A Web 2.0 site allows its users to interact with each other as contributors to the website's content, in contrast to websites where users are limited to the passive viewing of information that is provided to them. Examples of Web 2.0 include web-based communities, hosted services, web applications, social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, mashups, and Within folksonomies.
      With the birth of Web 2.0, it is important to ask ourselves whether or not the Internet Ethics that were described in 1989 are still applicable in this day and age. In order to answer this question we must tackle each point that the RCF 1087 makes when it comes to Internet Ethics.
      • “Seeks to gain unauthorized access to the resources of the Internet” This particularly applies to social networking tools wherein sensitive information such as complete names, addresses, phone numbers and even credit card numbers are given out by users. Although websites do have Terms of Service (TOS) agreements, they are made to mention whether or not user information will be shared with any third parties.
      • “Disrupts the intended use of the internet” may refer to computer viruses, malware, spyware and computer hacking. This also applies to “wastes resources (people, capacity, computer) through such actions, “
      • “Destroys the integrity of computer-based information...“ applies to such actions as internet piracy, fraud, plagiarism, pornography and the like.
      • “Compromises the privacy of users.“ Unlawful TOS agreements, sharing confidential information through the internet, or using that information other than what it was intended for falls under this.
      This proves that the points listed down in the RCF 1087 can still be applied to current internet usage. However whether or not they are followed is another question that needs to be answered.
      The importance of internet ethics and the RCF 1087 lies in both the immensity of its user base and the amount of information that is being fed to it everyday.
      Internet ethics covers the proper ways of information distribution, the type of information that is being passed on, and, in turn the protection of it’s users.
      Lack of internet ethics also means that there is no way for controlling what type of information will be sent through the network, including information that may cause harm to other people.
      Without internet ethics, there would be no real way of protecting any sensitive information that is sent through the network, and no way of controlling who is free to have access to that information, and what they’ll use it for.
      Now that we have understood why internet ethics is valuable, we can now move on to what it means to have internet ethics. The following points are from a study written by Roger Darlington in September of 2002. Darlington is a is a portfolio worker, specialising in consumer affairs and the communications industry, residing in the United Kingdom.
      Acceptance that the Internet is not a value-free zone. This means that the World Wide Web is not the wild wild Web, but instead a place where values in the broadest sense should take a part in shaping content and services. This is a recognition that the Internet is not something apart from civil society, but increasingly a fundamental component of it.
      Application of off-line laws to the on-line world. This means that we do not invent a new set of values for the Internet but, for all the practical problems, endeavour to apply the law which we have evolved for the physical space to the world of cyberspace. These laws might cover issues like child pornography, race hate, libel, copyright and consumer protection.
      Sensitivity to national and local cultures. This means recognising that, while originally most Internet users were white, male Americans, now the Internet belongs to all. As a pervasively global phenomenon, it cannot be subject to one set of values like a local newspaper or national television station; somehow we have to accommodate a multiplicity of value systems.
      Responsiveness to customer or user opinion. This means recognising that users of the Internet – and even non-users – are entitled to have a view on how it works. At the technical level, this is well understood – bodies like the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) end the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) endeavour to understand and reflect user views. However, at no level do we have similar mechanisms for capturing user opinions on content and access to it.
      It should also be understood that internet ethics is the responsibility of everyone that goes online, not just corporations and those in government, but the average end-user as well. In order to implement internet ethics, here are some things that may be done:
      Laws that apply in real life such as identity theft, and a ban on child pornography must be both criminalised and implemented online as well.
      Internet service providers such as Google must be made aware that they are servicing a multitude of people sharing information to more than one person. Even if they cannot pre-check content, they must address complaints or notifications about sites that they are hosting or programs they offer that are being used for illegal purposes.
      Consumers or end-users should be given both the knowledge and means to apply their own ethical code when it comes to internet usage, whether by themselves or their families. This is particularly important for parents and teachers.
      It must be recognized that children require special protection. The internet is not like television. Children can interact with other people on the internet without adult supervision, and in real-time. They are talking to strangers, some who may not have their best interest in mind.
      Darlington goes on to relate the following problems in implementing internet ethics:
      Jurisdictional competence. Laws are nation-based but cyberspace is global. How does one apply up to 170 separate and different legal systems to the Internet?
      Technological complexities. The Internet is a complex technical network and one cannot simply apply ‘old’ regulatory conventions from the worlds of publishing or broadcasting.
      The ‘geeks’ vs the ‘suits’. As many Internet-related companies have grown, there is now an internal tension between the old-timers, with their vast technical knowledge, and the new-comers who are more likely to be marketing people much more aware of consumer concerns.
      Populist campaigns. The Internet is still so new and so mysterious for many that it is still relatively easy for a populist campaign to be whipped up which exaggerates the dangers of Internet content and/or minimises the technical complexities of dealing with it. We must be sensitive to consumer concerns, but the agenda cannot be determined by ill-informed politicians looking for votes or newspapers seeking to boost circulation.
      With the birth of more user-friendly platforms on the internet, we must take into account that more and more people are being encouraged to use the internet and its services.
      Developments such as social networking tools are primarily geared towards a much younger generation because of the simplicity of its interface.
      The succeeding generations of users are much more reliant to the internet because they were born with it. We must take note of the fact that there are some users who do not even know what a 56kbit/s dial-up modem sounds like.
      Darlington’s study is much more relevant now than it was in 2002 because our dependency on the internet has grown since then.
      As more and more users go online, it becomes continually difficult to create laws and enforce guidelines on how the internet should be used properly. The longer that it takes for people to see that internet ethics is a must, the harder it becomes to apply it.
      With the simplicity of the Web 2.0 interface, the internet becomes accessible to a much younger group of individuals. The lack of proper guidelines to assist these users may also place them in danger.
      In order to create an ethical environment for both new and old internet users, Darlington gives the following solutions to current limitations:
      Modernisation of laws. Governments need to consider whether pre-Internet laws need up-dating to take account of new crimes such as cyber stalking or grooming in chat rooms.
      More high tech crime fighters. Law enforcement agencies need more people with greater technical training and resource to tackle increasingly sophisticated cyber criminals such as paedophile rings. One example is the recent creation of the National High Tech Crime Unit in the UK.
      ‘Note and take down’ mechanisms. We need organisations to which Internet users can report allegedly criminal content in the confident knowledge that this hotline is equipped to judge the legality and identify the hosting of material so that, if it is illegal and if it is in their jurisdictional area, they can issue a notice to the relevant ISP to remove it. A good example of such an operation is the Internet Watch Foundation in the UK.
      Labelling and filtering. We can best empower end users by greater labelling or rating of Internet content and greater use of more sophisticated filtering software. The Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA)has made considerable progress in developing and promoting a genuinely global, culturally independent labelling system. A wide range of companies provide filtering software which operates on different principles. In this way, households can make their own decisions based on their own cultural or ethical values.
      Walled gardens. For young children or as a transitional stage to full Internet access, one could use a ‘walled garden’ which restricts access to those sites pre-selected by a particular provider, typically with a child-friendly brand.
      Better supervision of children. All those with responsibility for children – especially parents, guardians, teachers and carers– need to become better aware of some of the problems of Internet use by children and the range of solutions which are available. They cannot rely, though, on technical solutions – regular conversation with, and observation of, the child is essential.
      In order for these limitations to be solved, Darlington suggests the following solutions:
      We need to give Internet users more relevant information. This should start at the point at which one purchases a PC or other Internet-enabled device. There should then be further information in both appropriate physical places – like school rooms – and relevant cyberspaces – like child-focussed chat rooms.
      We need a more informed debate through education and awareness campaigns. We cannot leave the terrain to civil libertarian ‘purists’, who too often see the Internet as a value-free or (as they would put it) censorship-free zone, or to the scare merchants who would have us believe that the Internet has more filth than facts.
      Ideally, there should be some sort of organisational focus for this debate and the promotion of advice, education and awareness. In the UK, the Home Office has recently established a Task Force chaired by Lord Bassam; there is the Internet Crime Forum which brings together law enforcement, children’s organisations and others, and there is the Internet Watch foundation which started as a hotline to combat criminal content but is now developing a wide-ranging education and awareness programme.
      In a sense, the passage of time and greater familiarity with the new Internet medium may – almost of itself – ease some of the difficulties. In some respects, we are experiencing the kind of reactions seen in the early days of the telegraph or television and we will learn to adjust to the new challenges and opportunities.
      The concept of ethics is applicable to the internet because it is a resource that provides a slew of services to the human race particularly social interaction on a global scale. A vast amount of information is uploaded and passed around its networks daily. The security of which is sometimes taken for granted.
      Because Web 2.0 has made information sharing and networking much easier, it also makes the internet more accessible to a vast range of users, even those who are under aged. This is why there is more of a need, now than ever, to filter content and to assist both new and young users in the workings of the web. They must be protected.
      There is a need for internet ethics in order to protect the human rights of its users. Without defining internet ethics, there is no “proper” or “improper” way of using the internet and its services.
      The need for internet ethics does not boil down to a battle between good and evil. Rather, it stems from a wide user base that all have different cultural & religious beliefs as well as laws and social norms. The development of internet ethics lies in finding a common ground for this user base on what they can agree on as "acceptable“ in terms of online conduct.
      Because the internet is primarily used as a networking tool connecting billions of users worldwide, the need for guidance on how to use such a resource is important. Unlike natural resources, the internet is virtually endless and full of opportunities for modification and advancement. This also makes it easy to abuse.
      We must be aware that as the internet becomes more and more of a valuable resource in the 21st century, we are just as open to new innovations as we are to the emergence of new crimes. If we do not take it upon ourselves to protect us and our families, who will?
      All images in this slide show are courtesy of Google.com and is intended, along with each slide, for educational purposes only. This slide show is not to be used for any form of monetary gain.