Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ethical description of cyberspace

Ethics: a major branch of philosophy encompasses right conduct and good life. It is significantly broader than the common conception of analyzing right and wrong. A central aspect of ethics is "the good life", the life worth living or life that is satisfying, which is held by many philosophers to be more important than moral conduct. The right act can be identified as the one causing the greatest good and the immoral act as the one impeding it.

Morals: Ethics and morals are respectively akin to theory and practice. Ethics denotes the theory of right action and the greater well, while morals indicate their practice. "Moral" has a dual meaning. The first indicates a person's comprehension of morality and his capacity to put it into practice. In this meaning, the antonym is "amoral", indicating an inability to distinguish between right and wrong. The second denotes the active practice of those values. In this sense, the antonym is "immoral", referring to actions that violate ethical principles.

Evolution and purpose of codes of journalism
The principles of good journalism are directed toward bringing the highest quality of news reporting to the public, thus fulfilling the mission of timely distribution of information in service of the public interest. To a large degree, the codes and canons evolved via observation of and response to past ethical lapses by journalists and publishers. Today, it is common for terms of employment to mandate adherence to such codes equally applicable to both staff and freelance journalists; journalists may face dismissal for ethical failures. Upholding professional standards also enhances the reputation of and trust in a news organization, which boosts the size of the audience it serves.
Journalistic codes of ethics are designed as guides through numerous difficulties, such as conflicts of interest, to assist journalists in dealing with ethical dilemmas. The codes and canons provide journalists a framework for self-monitoring and self-correction as they pursue professional assignments.

Meta-ethics: Meta-ethics is concerned primarily with the meaning of ethical judgments and/or prescriptions and with the notion of which properties, if any, are responsible for the truth or validity thereof. Meta-ethics as a discipline gained attention with G.E. Moore's famous work Principia Ethica from 1903 in which Moore first addressed what he referred to as the naturalistic fallacy. Moore's rebuttal of naturalistic ethics, his Open Question Argument sparked an interest within the analytic branch of western philosophy to concern oneself with second order questions about ethics; specifically the semantics, epistemology and ontology of ethics.

Cyberspace: Cyberspace is a domain characterized by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to store, modify, and exchange data via networked systems and associated physical infrastructures. The term originates in science fiction, where it also includes various kinds of virtual reality experienced by deeply immersed computer users or by entities that exist inside computer systems.
Information Technology (IT) has a central role in commerce, industry, government, medicine, education,
entertainment and society at large. Its economic and social benefits hardly need explanation. But like any other
technologies, IT also has problematic implications, and some negative impacts on our society. It poses and creates
some problems related to ethics, and contains in general three main types of ethical issues: personal privacy, access
right, and harmful actions. Let us look more closely at these issues, exploring in each case the ways in which they
affect the public reactions to this technological change.
In terms of personal privacy, IT enables data exchange of information on a large scale from anybody, on any
locations or parts of the world, at any times. In this situation, there is increased potential for disclosing information
and violating the privacy of any individuals and groups of people due to its widespread disseminations worldwide.
It is our challenge and responsibility to maintain the privacy and integrity of data regarding individuals. This also
includes taking precautions to ensure the accuracy of data, as well as protecting it from unauthorized access or
accidental disclosure to inappropriate individuals.
The second aspect of ethical issues in computing systems is access right. Due to the current popularity of
international commerce on the Internet, the topic of computer security and access right has moved quickly from
being a low priority for corporations and government agencies to a high priority. This interest has been heightened
by computer break-ins at places like Los Alamos National Laboratories and NASA in the US. Many attempts of
such illegal access to United States government and military computers by computer hackers have been widely
reported. Without implementation of proper computer security policies and strategies, network connections on the
Internet can’t be made secure from illegal accesses.
In computer ethics, harmful action means injury or negative consequences, such as undesirable loss of
information, loss of property, property damage, or unwanted environmental impacts. This principle prohibits use
of computing technology in ways that result in harm to any of users, the general public, employees, and employers.
Harmful actions include intentional destruction or modification of files and programs leading to serious loss of
resources or unnecessary expenditure of human resources such as the time and effort required to purge systems
from "computer viruses." In the following tables, a survey of various activities on Internet indicates that illegal
information nowadays is often reported. The data shows that the percentage of response from Japanese companies
and organizations is quite significant (Kubo, 1999).

So far, there has been relatively little investigation into the privacy and security issues relevant to these ethical
problems in IT and Cyberspace. Beside the false contents of information on Internet, many people tried to access
information that they don’t have rights to do so. For this reason, computer developers have proposed and used
intrusion-detection systems as basis of security systems designed to protect privacy. Typically, the intrusion detection
systems determine if a user is an intruder or a legitimate user, generally by way of various internal system
The Usenet is a quintessential Internet social phenomenon: it is huge, global, anarchic and rapidly growing.
It is also mostly invisible. Although, it is the largest example of a conferencing or discussion group
System, 2 the tools generally available to access it only display leaves and branches - chains of messages and
Responses. None present the trees and forest. With hundreds of thousands of new messages every day, it is
Impossible to try to read them all to get a sense of the entire place. As a result, an overview of activity in
The Usenet has been difficult to assemble and many basic questions about its size, shape, structure and
Dynamics have gone unanswered. How big is the Usenet? How many people post? Where are they from?
When and where do they post? How do groups vary from one another and over time? How many different
Kinds of groups are there? How many groups successfully thrive and how many die? What do the survivors?
Have that the others lack? How do different social cyberspaces connect and fit together and form a larger
There is no shortage of questions. But we lack a historical record of the transformations of social
Cyberspaces3 just at the point when network interaction media are being widely adopted. Cyberspace is
Changing the social physics of human life, broadening the size and power of group interaction. But without
Base-line measures of online activity, we are unable to assess if the groups being selected for study are
Marc Smith Invisible Crowds in Cyberspace
Typical or if the periods studied are typical for the groups in question. Without a general typology of these
Spaces there has been no systematic way to contrast research findings and integrate the results of separate
Research projects. The virtual blackout that cloaks interaction through networks has limited many priors
Studies to a narrow focus on a specific group over short periods of time (Lewenstein 1992; Pfaffenberger
1996; Phillips 1996), or on individual participants rather than the social space as a whole (Turkle 1996).
As a result, attempts to broadly characterize general social processes have been based on limited samples
(McLaughlin 1995). While the details of individual experiences and the events occurring in individual
Groups are important, research should look both at the details of individual groups and at the emergent
Social structure that grows out of the aggregation of tens of thousands.
Social cyberspaces can be mapped by computer-assisted analysis. In this paper I report on the
Initial results of Net scan, a software tool I designed that gathers an ongoing stream of Usenet messages and
Maintains a database of information drawn from the header of each message. It then distills measures of
Activity and relationships in any collection of newsgroups selected for study.4 this is an initial attempt to
Survey this emerging social landscape and address some of the limitations of existing tools for exploring
Data drawn from group interaction in cyberspace offers some unique opportunities for the study of
Social organization. One of the unique features of network-mediated communication is that almost all
Interactions leave behind a durable trace: electronic tracks that can provide detailed data about what vast
Numbers of groups of people do online. Unlike research on face-to-face social relations, online data
Gathering can be automated and collected over an extended period of time from vast numbers of social
Spaces, involving millions of people and tens of millions of messages. Longitudinal research on social
Cyberspaces can illustrate the ways network interaction media, and the social institutions that have emerged
In them, have changed over time (Rice 1982). And, because these messages are often created in a casual
Manner, these data offer insight into the everyday world of many people. Online spaces become self-documenting
“Natural settings”. And while there are a number of possible back channels of communication
That limit claims to the completeness of these data, digital artifacts have the advantage of being exact copies
Of the messages the participants wrote or read themselves.5 Because online interactions are often archived
In their entirety, at least for a short while, the contents of entire collections of messages exchanged by a
Marc Smith Invisible Crowds in Cyberspace 3
Group can be examined and studied.6 Computer generated message headers and accurate copies of message
Content have even been found to be more reliable sources of data about communications activities than
Alternative self-reporting surveys (Bikson and Eveland, 1990).
There are a number of reasons to start an investigation into the structure of social cyberspaces with the
Usenet. Created in 1979 at the University of North Carolina, as an alternative to services available through
The more elite ARPANET, the Usenet initially connected only two computers and handled a few posts or
Messages a day (Harrison, 1995). Today, it is the third most widely used form of interaction media on the
Internet (behind email and the World Wide Web) in terms of users. Growing from fifteen newsgroups,
Which contained messages that collectively took up fifteen kilobytes per day in 1979, the Usenet now
Contains more than 14,347 newsgroups carrying two gigabytes of messages per day. On an average day,
20,000 people post 300,000 messages. In the one hundred and fifty days ending November 15th, 1997 1.1
Million people7 posted at least one message each for a total of more than fourteen million unique posts.8
The Usenet also has the largest geographic scope of systems of its type, drawing participants from
Nearly every corner of the globe9. By reviewing the email addresses of the people who post to the Usenet
We can crudely measure the location of posters around the globe. While not every nation has a large
Population participating in the Usenet, there are few that are completely absent. Of the 250 officially
Recognized Internet domains, 238 are reserved for nations and recognized sovereign entities. Of those, only
33 Countries have zero messages in the Usenet.10 A significant majority of people post from the United
States but the system is extremely international, drawing 59% of its participants from outside the U.S.
Remarkably, the 15th most common region is anonymous – messages, which lack headers, that identify
Author of the post. Information about the author of a Usenet message is stored in the FROM: line of the
Header. Without much trouble this line can be intentionally modified or damaged so that the author cannot
Be identified. This is only the most obvious and clumsy form of anonymity practiced in the Usenet. More
Sophisticated forms of anonymity use properly formatted addresses that point to non-existent people.
Contribute to society and human being
In this regards, ethical problems are very important to be understood, realized, and solved legally or technically,
not only in one or two countries, but worldwide, since the use of such computing technology will change
everything in our life: where and how we work, learn, shop, vote, spend time, and live (Zhong, Liu, and Yao, 2002).
As many governments and organizations formulate new strategies, it is probably also important to realize some
related questions that may drive directly or indirectly some ethical issues in general sense. Such strategies should
address a growing number of worldwide community issues, which may affect our lives, such as:
• How should society cope with resulting unemployment and underemployment worldwide?
• How should governments and businesses deal with possible exploitation of poor countries by wealthy
countries and multinational conglomerates?
• How can society provide people with jobs that are interesting, fulfilling and challenging?
• How will education in cyberspace be planned, administered and financed?
• How can safeguards be introduced to ensure that the poor are not excluded from employment
opportunities, education, shopping, entertainment and many more things on the global
But how many successes are there? The question is difficult to answer; what constitutes “successful”? An
alternative and more tractable question is what kinds of interaction patterns are present in each newsgroup?
What immediately becomes clear is that social cyberspaces are not all the same. The following takes each
logical level of the Usenet, hierarchies, newsgroups, posts, posters, and crossposting in turn looking at the
range of variation across the system as a whole.
Each hierarchy varies in terms of the number of groups it contains, the number of messages those groups
receive and the number of people who contribute those messages.

Examples of ethical dilemmas
One of the primary functions of journalism ethics is to aid journalists in dealing with many ethical dilemmas they may encounter. From highly sensitive issues of national security to everyday questions such as accepting a dinner from a source, putting a bumper sticker on one's car, publishing a personal opinion blog, a journalist must make decisions taking into account things such -- the public's right to know, potential threats, reprisals and intimidations of all kinds, personal integrity, conflicts between editors, reporters and publishers or management -- and many other such conundrums. The following are illustrations of some of those.
The Pentagon Papers dealt with extremely difficult ethical dilemmas faced by journalists. Despite Government intervention, The Washington Post, joined by The New York Times, felt the public interest was more compelling and both published reports. (The cases went to the Supreme Court where they were merged and are known as New York Times Co. v. U.S. 403 US 713
The Washington Post also once published a story about a listening device that the United States had installed over an undersea Soviet cable during the height of the cold war. The device allowed the U.S. to learn where Soviet submarines were positioned. In that case, Post publisher Ben Bradlee chose not to run the story on national security grounds. However, the Soviets subsequently discovered the device and according to Bradlee, "It was no longer a matter of national security. It was a matter of national embarrassment." However, the U.S. Government still wanted The Washington Post not to run the story on the basis of national security, yet, according to Bradee, "We ran the story. And you know what, the sun rose the next day.
The Ethics Advice Line, a joint venture, public service project of Chicago Headline Club Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice, provides some examples of typical ethical dilemmas reported to their ethical dilemma hot-line and are typical of the kinds of questions faced by many professional journalists.

No comments: