Ethics and Organizations

By Brent Adam


This presentation will be heavily discussion oriented. I would like to structure this web page a little bit differently than you might expect. Overhead slide material will be bolded, questions posed to the class will be in italics, and my commentary will be normal text. This section is the first section of the presentation.

Ethics and Liability on the Internet

Brent Adam o Corinne Eckel o Terence Russell o Wendy Nikiforuk

Our presentation today is focused on Ethics and Liability on the Internet. Presenting with me are Corinne Eckel, Terence Russell, and Wendy Nikiforuk. We are intending this to be a discussion oriented presentation, so please comment as we go along. I will begin the discussion by asking you...

What is your definition of ethics and ethical behavior?

WWW Webster Definition for "ethic"

Ethics is concerned with questions of value. Judgments about what human behavior is "good" or "bad". Here is four basic views that I found interesting.

What are you? An idealist, realist, pragmatist, or existentialist?

Lets move into the area of computer science, and in particular, to the principles of conduct governing computer scientists.

Existing Codes of Ethics

Codes of ethics endeavor to raise the status of the profession in the society. Also, in tough situations, you don't want to be guided by emotional responses, but you want a decision making process that could possible be backed up by law.

For most societies, all they can do if you violate these codes is revoke your membership. These codes are prescriptive and are concerned with what people ought to do.

Considering all these codes of ethics from different countries, let me ask you, is it possible to come up with an international ethical code?

The Global Ethic Project is attempting to do just that. It is an Internet project of the 1993 Parliament of World Religions in Chicago. They are establishing a foundation for a global interreligious community. They have produced a Declaration Towards a Global Ethic, and they are advancing the project through online technology with a web site and a list server discussion group.

There are many other organizations that are visible on the internet that are concerned with ethics.

Organizations on the Internet

The Internet Activities Board characterizes as unethical and unacceptable any activity which purposely:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a non-profit civil liberties organization working in the public interest to protect privacy, free expression, and access to online resources and information. They are heavily involved in the recent free speech on-line campaign against the 1996 U.S. Telecommunications Bill and the Communications Decency Act.

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility is a public-interest alliance of computer professionals and others interested in the impact of technology upon society.

The CPSR has a Computer Ethics Institute which put out the Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics

The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics

  1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.

  2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people's computer work.

  3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people's computer files.

  4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.

  5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.

  6. Thou shalt not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid.

  7. Thou shalt not use other people's computer resources without authorization or proper compensation.

  8. Thou shalt not appropriate other people's intellectual output.

  9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing.

  10. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that insure consideration and respect for your fellow humans.

My ethical theory of netiquette is one of "maximum happiness". It is a utilitarianist theory which states that "an action is good if it raises internet happiness". With that thought, we will move onto our next topic which is netiquette.

My webgrid on ethics and liability

To the next topic
Back to the Ethics and Liability page


Websters Dictionary
On-line Dictionary of Computing - Computer Ethics
Ethics on the World Wide Web
World Codes of Conduct