The use of computers has rapidly changed since it first came into being back in the 1940’s. A piece of major equipment that was once only used for data storage and analysis by the government, then later on some well financed corporations, has now become the main source of information and communication by everyone on the planet.
The birth of the internet changed the way we use computers by allowing us to access information from across the globe and in various languages. We now have the ability to travel from one country to another without ever leaving the comfort of our own homes. Most importantly, we have been given an opportunity to have a free exchange of ideas with people who are not only from all walks of life, but also from various countries, regardless of the time difference.
Indeed, the computer and the internet has changed the face of our social lives and way of thinking. This is an opportunity that we must learn to embrace and use to benefit not only ourselves, but society as a whole. But with such great social advancement also comes great responsibility. Just as we are expected to conduct ourselves in a certain way when out in public, so too are we expected to interact with our internet based acquaintances.
There are ongoing debates and conflicts about how Internet Ethics plays a role in our modern day lives. When is old school ethics too old school? Does Internet Ethics vary greatly from the social ethics of the past? How does one deal with ever changing technology in terms of this ethical debate? These and some other concerns are what I wish to discuss with as much detail as I will be allowed.
The internet allows us to have a free exchange of ideas using social forums such as discussion boards, chatrooms, and shout out walls. These instruments of thought sharing encourage us to be free with our thoughts and say what we actually feel. Such areas do not even require us to sign our real names, only aliases to the sentiments that we choose we share with the world. It has in effect, emboldened us to fight for our right to be heard using the cover of anonymity that only the internet can offer.
But there have been quite a great number of people who have overstepped the bounds of decency in expressing themselves over the internet. So much so that the internet is sometimes called the New Wild West because of the degree of lawlessness and abandon its users tend to display.
It has become apparent that people believe that good manners and right conduct do not apply when sharing their sentiments over the web. Which is why it has become highly important that a uniform set of ethics now be required for the users of the internet. This is not the wild west, it is the new frontier that holds a tremendous amount of hope for our future.
Which is why, as our new digital world continues to evolve, we must, as a people, insure that a set of professional ethics and standards are out into place to guide the present and future generations in the use of the internet. We know that the internet can hold both truths and lies because of the way people can mask their identities when presenting information. With a proper set of ethics in place, we can insure that there will always be a way to verify the validity of information shared with the public.
These were the core values that drove the Arthur W. Page Society (2011) to draft the 4 basic principles that will govern what the group terms as an Internet Ethics code. These 4 principles explain internet ethics as a person or groups ability:
1. To present facts that are backed up with verifiable data thereby forcing the informant to refrain from stating mistruths
2. Provide information that comes only from the most up to date sources from experts in the field.
3. Insuring that all information shared will help earn the public’s trust by presenting only accurate information when participating in chatrooms, forums, and correcting questionable information once it becomes public.
4. To insure that public relations as a profession will educate others on the proper use of the internet and the new media it provides. ( “PR Coalition Endorses Internet Ethics Code” 1)
It is quite possible that the time has come for us to evaluate our social ethics as we try to apply it to the internet. Although the core beliefs of decency and respect for others opinions carry through to internet interactions, we have to accept the fact that it will be hard to implement some rules when actual physical interaction does not exist. That proves to be a ethical challenge of a different kind.
Our good old ethics plays best in the real world. But over the internet, there are just too many new ethical problems being faced on a daily basis that do not have any old time moral ethics to draw upon when trying to find a solution to the ethical problem being posed.
However, that is not to say that we cannot combine our traditional ethical standards with the new ethical standards as mentioned by the Arthur W. Page society. In fact, combining our traditional values with the internet ethic standards they have set forth may actually prove to be quite an improvement in terms of updating our old school standards of ethics and morality.
As computer users who value the benefit and joy that computerized social interaction has brought to our lives, we have a huge responsibility on our shoulders. We are expected to lead the new generation coming into internet usage by example.
Therefore, each word we utter over the internet, even though cloaked in anonymity, must uphold the ethical standards that we hold dear and true in the real world plus, the new ethical standards for internet use as advocated by groups such as the Arthur W. Page Society. Words shared over the internet have the power to change lives, to call people to action, or demand action from governments, such is the power that we as a people now possess. Let us use it wisely and ethically.
The way we use the internet as a form of social interaction and information sharing tool will continue to expand and evolve as the years progress and the technology continues to improve. A new ethical dilemma will always comes up because of it and as such, we will see how the internet users, the newest member of our society, will continue to develop its code of ethics in an effort to protect the rights of others and continue to be a beacon of truth and electronic morality for years to come.
Bynum, Terrell. “Computer and Information Ethics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Spring 2011 Edition. Web. 15 April 2011.
Johansen, Jay. “New Technology, New Ethics”. n.p. 24 February 2010. Web. 15 April 2011.
Niles, Robert. “Journalism ethics 2.0: As The Internet Changes The Market, Some Conventions Must Change As Well”. 2009. OJR: The Online Journalism Review. Web. 16 April 2011
“PR Coalition Endorses Internet Ethics Code”. Arthur W Page Soceity. 2011. Web. 16 April 2011.