The new ethical responsibilities of internet service providers
As the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies and the UNESCO Observatory on the Information Society have documented, the exponential developments of internet services and resources have brought enormous benefits and opportunities to an increasing number of people. But it has also greatly outpaced our understanding of their conceptual nature and ethical implications, while raising unprecedented moral challenges, whose complexity and global dimensions are rapidly expanding, evolving and becoming increasingly serious. Examples come readily to mind. Consider the ethical issues arising from “the triple A”, namely the availability, accessibility and accuracy of informational resources, independently of their format, kind and physical support; the corresponding questions concerning standards of reliability and trustworthiness of information sources; or e-inclusion and the so-called digital divide. The more we become accustomed to living and working immersed within an informational environment, the easier it becomes to unveil the new moral difficulties that we encounter. Thus, in recent years, information societies have been forced to deal with urgent, ethical problems concerning information privacy and confidentiality, hacking (understood as the unauthorised access to a computerised information system), digital vandalism (e.g. the creation and intentional dissemination of software viruses), security, monitoring and control (including issues related to digital warfare, terrorism and a dystopian “surveillance society”), freedom of expression, censorship, filtering and contents control. Likewise, the debate about information ownership and intellectual property (including copyright and patents legislation), fair use, piracy, and the development and support of open source software affects both users and producers ethically, while morally shaping their informational environment. Inevitably, similar issues constitute a complex and potentially confusing scenario, not least because it is in constant and rapid evolution. The lack of balance is obvious and a matter of daily experience in the life of millions of citizens.
Floridi, L. (2011). The new ethical responsibilities of internet service providers. Philosophy & Technology 24 (4), pp. 369-370.
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