Cyberethics - Ethics in the Age of the Internet

Cyberethics - Ethics in the Age of the Internet

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Cyberethics - Ethics in the Age of the Internet

In every society we live, we have to follow the rule of that place. The Internet is growing, growing in the number of users and growing in public perception. The Internet is the new American frontier due to the new technologies is radically transforming almost every aspect of how we communicate and with whom, as well as just about any dimension of our lives. Most Internet users are convinced of its general utility and positive benefits. However behind it, the Internet, as well as its technological offspring’s the World Wide Web has been compared to the Wild West, because no one owns the network and there is no law and regulations. In consequence of the growth of the Internet, there have been increasing calls for its regulation from many sides.


The new medium of the Internet has begun to create shadow versions of our older media (Crowley 303). William J. Mitchell likens computers as media to a frontier society (Crowley 303). New media technologies beckon more enticingly than ever. More than merely offering an improvement on existing forms of communication, new media technologies are creating what telecommunications scholar Frederick Williams calls a “virtually new medium of public communication” (Pavlik, 79). The Internet is a form of new media. Exploiting the Internet’s distribution channels will be an important challenge to publishing and other media industries in the next few years. The initial problem is that no one owns the network. The Internet continues to expand both in terms of audience and the range of its information services. Among other benefits, it offers American media companies an important channel for searching both old and new audiences. Until recently, Canada's broadcast and telecommunications watchdog is gearing up to tackle a potentially explosive issue -- whether it should try to regulate the Internet. The CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) said regulation could be used to promote Canadian culture or protect Canadians -- particularly youngsters -- from obscenities such as pornography and hate propaganda on the Internet (Brehl). However later, the CRTC announced that it will not regulate new media services on the Internet. After conducting an in-depth review under the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act beginning last July, the CRTC has concluded that the new media on the Internet are achieving the goals of the Broadcasting Act and are vibrant, highly competitive and successful without regulation.

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The CRTC is concerned that any attempt to regulate Canadian new media might put the industry at a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace (CRTC).


Internet is certainly the Wild West of the information age and because of its lack of control and restraints, the Internet serves as a potential threat to society. The introduction of computers in significant numbers into society has brought the legal system problems of new crimes and new ways to commit old ones. Computer crime has become one of the most publicized aspects of computer use. The various crimes associated with computers are difficult to evaluate in terms of either magnitude or frequency, but it seems safe to say that the number and variety are increasing and the stakes are growing. Victimized companies, including banks, have been reluctant to publicize such crimes for fear of endangering their reputations for security. Never less, enough cases have been documented to indicate that computer crimes can be quite subtle and difficult to detect (Rosenberg, 186).

The Internet is actually a combination of thousands of computer networks sending and receiving data from all over the world-competing interests joined together by a common purpose but no common owner. “No government or commercial entity owns the Net or directly profits from its operation,” notes information designer Roger Fidler. “It has no president chief executive officer, or central headquarters.” (Biagi, 193) Now, with so many computers in homes and small business, a new virus has enormous economic and social impact. For stories dealing with violations of large computer networks, a”David and Goliath” image emerges of the lonely, clever computer programmer, or hacker cracking the all- powerful system, thought to be invincible up to now (Rosenberg, 168). Donn Parker, an expert on computer crime, prefers to use the term computer abuse. He defines it as follows:

...Any incident involving an intention act where a victim suffered or could have suffered loss, and a perpetrate made or could have made gain…associated with computers (Rosenberg, 170).


Privacy as a social issue has long been a concern of social scientists, philosophers, and lawyers. The arrival of the computer has sharpened this concern and made concrete a number of treats to personal privacy. But what does the word privacy means? Is privacy a right?

Privacy is on a slippery slope in the International arena, as is illustrated by the Internet. “It is in the transborder nature of Internet traffic where the notion of privacy becomes slippery,” notes Leslie Regan Shade of McGill University. “The legal impact of such international flows has yet to be tested” she writes, “and the repercussions could be mind – boggling in a decentralized environment that is hard to regulate and manage and that is further complicated by differing and often conflicting national law. A number of countries have formalized privacy protections for the individuals in the information age. In 1984, German courts upheld the fundamental right of informational self-determination. The European Union has established through two directives “a high degree of protection” for personal data, whether government or business controlled (Pavlik, 292). But many of the world’s countries have few if no laws protecting individual privacy especially in the context of digital communications.

The eventual pattern of a full-scale information utility is difficult to predict it. It will be the result of a series of political compromises that satisfy the interests of the industries involved. Government intervention in the process will always be problematical, given the inability of the political process to match the pace of communication changes. As the London Economist notes:

Technology will change faster than the government’s ability to regulate it… the right communications policy for America is one that maximizes revenues for the government and lays out an open field for competition (Dizard, 85).

Computer ethics is a dynamic and complex field of study which considers the relationships among facts, conceptualizations, policies and values with regard to constantly changing computer technology (Moor). There can be little doubt that data processing today is much quicker, more flexible, and better arranged and displayed than ever before in our history. Every new technology has introduced not only new opportunity but also new risk. Although it is a powerful and provocative form of communication the Internet does not yet have a settled shape and for that reason it is being considered as the Wild West. It is beyond doubt that the Internet can be used as a tool to break the law in various ways. But let is not use them as an excuse to over regulate the freedom of technology. Let us instead work towards wise enforcement of already existing laws and more uniform international laws.


Spinello, Richard A. CyberEthics: morality and law in cyberspace, 2nd Edition
Baird, Robert M, CyberEthics: social and moral issues in the computer age
Rosenberg, Richard S. Social Impact of Computers 2nd Ed. San Diego, Academic Press, 1997

Howard F. Didsbury, Jr. Communications and The Future: Prospects, Promises and Problems. World Future Society Bethesda, MD. USA, 1982

Dizard, Wilson P. Old Media/New Media: Mass Communications in the Information Age. 2nd Ed. New York, Longman, 1997

Biagi S. and Mckie C. Media Impact: An Introduction to Mass Media. 1st Canadian ed. International Thomson Publishing Company, 1999.

Pavlik John V. New Media Technology: Cultural and Commercial Perspectives. 2nd ed. 1988

Crowley David and Heyer Paul Communication in History. 3rd ed. 1988

James H. Moor, What is Computer Ethics?

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

Robert Brehl, The Globe & Mail Saturday, August 1, 1998 page A1,A3
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