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1. Is there anything about information technology that presents “unique” ethical challenges?

2. What are some ethical issues and dilemmas related to computers and electronic communication?

CHAPTER 1: Introduction to Cyberethics: Concepts, Perspectives, and Methodological Frameworks Our primary objective in Chapter 1 is to introduce some foundational concepts and methodological frameworks that will be used in our analysis of specific cyberethics issues in subsequent chapters of this textbook. To accomplish this objective, we define key terms such as cyberethics and cybertechnology; describe key developmental phases in cybertechnology that influenced the evolution of cyberethics as a distinct field of applied ethics; consider whether there is anything unique or special about cyberethics issues; examine three distinct perspectives for identifying and approaching cyberethics issues; propose a comprehensive methodological scheme for analyzing cyberethics issues. We begin by reflecting briefly on three scenarios, each illustrating a cluster of ethical issues that will be examined in detail in later chapters of this book. SCENARIO 1–1: A Fatal Cyberbullying Incident on MySpace Megan Meier, a 13-year-old resident of Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, had an account on MySpace where she received a “friend” request from a user named Josh Evans. Evans, who claimed to be a 16-yearold boy, told Meier that he lived near her and was being homeschooled by his parents. At first, Evans sent flattering e-mails to Meier, which also suggested that he might be romantically interested in her. Soon, however, Evans’s remarks turned from compliments to insults, and Evans informed Meier that he was no longer sure that he wanted to be friends with her because he heard that she “wasn’t very nice to her friends.” Next, Meier noticed that some highly derogatory posts about her—e.g., “Megan Meier is a slut” and “Megan Meier is fat”— began to appear on MySpace. Meier, who was reported to have suffered from low self-esteem and depression, became increasingly distressed by the online harassment (cyberbullying) being directed at her—i.e., from both the insulting MySpace postings and hurtful e-mail messages she continued to receive from Evans. On October 17, 2006, Meier decided to end her life by hanging herself in her bedroom. An investigation of this incident, following Meier’s death, revealed that Josh Evans was not a teenage boy; she was Lori Drew, the 49-year-old mother of a former friend of Meier’s.1 SCENARIO 1–2: Contesting the Ownership of a Twitter Account Noah Kravitz was employed by PhoneDog Media, a mobile phone company, for nearly four years. PhoneDog had two divisions: an ecommerce site ( that sold mobile phones, and a blog that enabled customers to interact with the company. Kravitz created a blog on Twitter (called Phonedog_Noah) while employed at PhoneDog, and his blog attracted 17,000 followers by the time he left the company in October 2010. However, Kravitz informed PhoneDog that he wanted to keep his Twitter blog, with all of his followers; in return, Kravitz agreed that he would still “tweet” occasionally on behalf of his former company, under a new (Twitter) “handle,” or account name, NoahKravitz. Initially, PhoneDog seemed to have no problem with this arrangement. In July 2011, however, PhoneDog sued Kravitz, arguing that his list of Twitter followers was, in fact, a company list. PhoneDog also argued that it had invested a substantial amount of money in growing its customer list, which it considered to be the property of PhoneDog Media. The company (as of early 2012) is seeking $340,000 in damages—the amount that PhoneDog estimated it had lost based on 17,000 customers at $2.50 per customer over an eight-month period (following Kravitz’s departure from the company). 2 SCENARIO 1–3: “The Washingtonienne” Blogger Jessica Cutler, a former staff assistant to U.S. Senator Michael DeWine (R-Ohio), authored an online diary (on under the pseudonym “The Washingtonienne.” In May 2004, she was fired when the contents of her diary appeared in Wonkette: The DC Gossip, a popular blog in the Washington D.C. area. Until her diary was discovered and published in Wonkette, Cutler assumed that it had been viewed by only a few of her fellow “staffers” (Washington D.C. staff assistants) who were interested in reading about the details of her romantic relationships and sexual encounters. In her diary, Cutler disclosed that she earned an annual salary of only $25,000 as a staffer and that most of her living expenses were “thankfully subsidized by a few generous older gentlemen.” She also described some details of her sexual relationships with these men, one of whom was married and an official in the George W. Bush administration. (Cutler did not use the real names of these men but instead referred to them via initials that could easily be linked to their actual identities.) Following her termination as a staffer, in response to the political fallout and the media attention resulting from the publication of her diary, Cutler was offered a book contract with a major publisher. She was also subsequently sued by one of the men implicated in her blog.3 First, consider some ethical concerns that arise in the Megan Meier cyberbullying scenario. These include worries affecting anonymity and pseudonymity, deception, crime, legal liability, and moral responsibility. Should Lori Drew, as well as any other MySpace user, have been permitted to open an account on that social networking site (SNS) under an alias or pseudonym that also included a fictitious profile? Should MySpace, or any SNS, tolerate members who deceive, intimidate, or harass other users? Should users who create accounts on SNSs with the intention to deceive or harass others be subject to criminal prosecution? Should MySpace have been held legally liable, at least in some contributory sense, for Meier’s death? Also, do ordinary users of an SNS who discover that someone is being bullied in that online forum have a moral responsibility to inform the SNS? Do they also have a moral responsibility to inform that SNS if they discover that someone has created a fraudulent account on their forum, which could be used to deceive and harass other members? These and similar questions are examined in detail in Chapters 7 and 11. Next, consider the scenario involving Twitter. Here, several important ethical, legal, and policy issues also arise—especially with respect to intellectual property rights and ownership of information. For example, can an employer’s customer list constitute a “trade secret,” as PhoneDog claimed? Should an employee be authorized to create a single Twitter account in which the followers are simultaneously interested both in the employer’s product and in the employee’s (private) blog? Should employees be allowed to post to their private accounts on SNSs, such as Twitter or Facebook, during work hours or, for that matter, whenever/wherever they are using an employer’s computing resources? If so, who has legal ownership rights to that information? A different, but somewhat related, question has to do with whether ordinary users should be able to post on their private SNS accounts anything they wish to say about their current or former employers, without first getting explicit permission to do so. Questions pertaining to these and related issues are examined in Chapters 8 and 9. Third, consider “The Washingtonienne” scenario, where a wide range of ethical and legal issues also arise. These include concerns affecting privacy, confidentiality, anonymity, free speech, defamation, and so forth. For example, did Cutler violate the privacy and confidentiality of her romantic partners through the remarks she made about them in her online diary? Should she be held liable for defamation because of the nature of her remarks about these individuals, or was she merely exercising her right to free speech? Was Cutler’s expectation of anonymity violated when she was eventually “outed” by Wonkette, or were the circumstances surrounding this incident no different from that of any author or journalist who writes under a pseudonym but whose real identity is eventually discovered and made public? Should Cutler’s online diary be considered a “public document” merely because it was on the Web, or did her diary also deserve some privacy protection because of the limited scope of its intended audience? Answers to these and related questions affecting blogs and the “blogosphere” are examined in Chapters 5, 9, and 11. The Meier, Twitter, and Washingtonienne scenarios provide us with particular contexts in which we can begin to think about a cluster of ethical issues affecting the use of computers and cybertechnology. A number of alternative examples could also have been used to illustrate many of the moral and legal concerns that arise in connection with this technology. In fact, examples abound. One has only to read a daily newspaper or view regular television news programs to be informed about controversial issues involving computers and the Internet, including questions that pertain to property, privacy, security, anonymity, crime, and jurisdiction. Ethical aspects of these issues are examined in the chapters comprising this textbook. In the remainder of Chapter 1, we identify and examine some key foundational concepts and frameworks in cyberethics. 1.1: DEFINING KEY TERMS: CYBERETHICS AND CYBERTECHNOLOGY Before we propose a definition of cyberethics, it is important to note that the field of cyberethics can be viewed as a branch of (applied) ethics. In Chapter 2, where we define ethics as “the study of morality,” we provide a detailed account of what is meant by (Tavani 1-3) Tavani, Herman T. Ethics and Technology: Controversies, Questions, and Strategies for Ethical Computing, 4th Edition. Wiley, 2012-11-26. VitalBook file.
CHAPTER 2: Ethical Concepts and Ethical Theories: Establishing and Justifying a Moral System In Chapter 1, we defined cyberethics as the study of moral issues involving cybertechnology. However, we have not yet defined what is meant by ethics, morality, and the study of moral issues. In Chapter 2, we define these terms as well as other foundational concepts, and we examine a set of ethical theories that will guide us in our deliberation on the specific cyberethics issues we confront in Chapters 4–12. To accomplish the objectives of Chapter 2, we provide answers to the following questions: What is ethics, and how is it different from morality or a moral system? What are the elements that make up a moral system? Where do the rules in a moral system come from, and how are they justified? How is a philosophical study of morality different from studying morality from the perspectives of religion and law? Is morality essentially a personal, or private, matter, or is it a public phenomenon? Is morality simply relative to particular cultures and thus culturally determined? How is meaningful dialogue about cyberethics issues that are global in scope possible in a world with diverse cultures and belief systems? What roles do classic and contemporary ethical theories play in the analysis of moral issues involving cybertechnology? Are traditional ethical theories adequate to handle the wide range of moral controversies affecting cybertechnology? 2.1: ETHICS AND MORALITY Ethics is derived from the Greek ethos, and the term morality has its roots in the Latin mores. Both the Greek and the Latin terms refer to notions of custom, habit, behavior, and character. Although “ethics” and “morality” are often used interchangeably in everyday discourse, we draw some important distinctions between the two terms as we will use them in this textbook. First, we define ethics as the study of morality.1 This definition, of course, raises two further questions: a.What is morality? b.What is the study of morality? We had begun to answer question (b) in Chapter 1, where we described three approaches to cyberethics issues. You may want to review Section 1.4, which describes how moral issues can be studied from the perspectives of professional ethics, philosophical ethics, and sociological/descriptive ethics. We will say more about the study of morality from a philosophical perspective in Section 2.1.2. Before we examine the concepts and theories that comprise morality or a moral system, however, we briefly consider a classic example of a moral dilemma. First, we should note that the phrase “moral dilemma” is often misused to describe a “moral issue.” We will see that not every moral issue is a moral dilemma, and not every dilemma is necessarily moral in nature. A dilemma describes a situation where one is confronted with two choices, neither of which is desirable. Sometimes it may mean choosing between (what one may perceive to be) the lesser of two evils. But our primary interest in this chapter is not so much with the specific choices one makes; instead it is with (i) the principle that one uses in making his or her choice, and (ii) whether that principle can be applied systematically and consistently in making moral decisions in similar kinds of cases. We next consider a dilemma that has become a classic in the ethics literature. SCENARIO 2–1: The Runaway Trolley: A Classic Moral Dilemma Imagine that you are driving a trolley and that all of a sudden you realize that the trolley’s brake system has failed. Further imagine that approximately 80 meters ahead of you on the trolley track (a short distance from the trolley’s station) five crew men are working on a section of the track on which your trolley is traveling. You realize that you cannot stop the trolley and that you will probably not be able to prevent the deaths of the five workers. But then you suddenly realize that you could “throw a switch” that would cause the trolley to go on to a different track. You also happen to notice that one person is working on that track. You then realize that if you do nothing, five people will likely die, whereas if you engage the switch to change tracks, only one person would likely die.2 What would you do in this situation—let the trolley take its “natural” course, expecting that five people will likely die, or intentionally change the direction of the trolley, likely causing the death of one person who otherwise would have lived? If you use what some call a “cost-benefits” approach in this particular situation, you might reason in the following way: throwing the switch will have a better outcome, overall, because more human lives would be saved than lost. So, in this case you conclude that throwing the switch is the right thing to do because the net result is that four more people will live. If the reasoning process that you used in this particular case is extended to a general principle, you have embraced a type of consequentialist or utilitarian ethical theory (described later in this chapter). But can this principle/theory be consistently extended to cover similar cases? Next consider a variation of this dilemma, which also involves a runaway trolley, but this time you are a spectator. Imagine that you are standing on a bridge overlooking the track on which a runaway trolley is traveling. You observe that the trolley is heading for the station where there are many people gathered outside. Standing next to you on the bridge is a very large and obese person (weighing approximately 500 pounds), who is leaning forward over the rail of the bridge to view the runaway trolley. You realize that if you gently pushed the obese person forward as the trolley approaches, he would fall off the bridge and land in front of the trolley; the impact would be sufficient to stop the trolley. Thus you could save the lives of many people who otherwise would die. Would you be willing to push the obese person off the bridge? If not, why not? What has changed in the two scenarios? After all, if you are reasoning from the standpoint of a utilitarian/consequentialist theory, the same outcome would be realized—one person dies, while many others live. But studies have shown that most people find it far more difficult to push (intentionally) one person to his death, even though doing so would mean that several persons will live as a result. However, in this case, you might reason that intentionally causing someone’s death (especially by having a “direct hand” in it) is morally wrong. You may also reason that actively and deliberately causing one person’s death (as opposed to another’s) is unjust and unfair, and that it would be a dangerous moral principle to generalize. In this case, your reasoning would be nonutilitarian or nonconsequentialist. Perhaps you see the inconsistency in the means used to make decisions in the two similar scenarios. However, you might react initially by saying that it is permissible to flip-flop on moral principles, depending on the particular circumstances you face. But we will see that it is difficult to have a coherent moral system where the ethical theories used to frame policies are inherently inconsistent. Fortunately, there is no need for us to resolve these questions at this point in the chapter. Rather, the purpose of posing this dilemma now is to get us to begin thinking about how we can respond to dilemmas that we will invariably face in our professional as well as personal lives. Later in this chapter, we revisit this dilemma and we complicate it somewhat by replacing the trolley’s human driver with an autonomous computer system. We then examine in detail some specific ethical theories that can be applied in our analyses of this and other moral dilemmas. First, however, we examine some basic concepts that comprise morality and a moral system. 2.1.1: What Is Morality? As noted above, we defined ethics as the study of morality. However, there is no universally agreed upon definition of “morality” among ethicists and philosophers. For our purposes, however, morality can be defined as a system of rules for guiding human conduct, and principles for evaluating those rules. Note that (i) morality is a system, and (ii) it is a system comprised of moral rules and principles. Moral rules can be understood as rules of conduct, which are very similar to the notion of policies, described in Chapter 1. There, “policies” were defined as rules of conduct that have a wide range of application. According to James Moor (2004), policies range from formal laws to informal, implicit guidelines for actions. (Tavani 33-36) Tavani, Herman T. Ethics and Technology: Controversies, Questions, and Strategies for Ethical Computing, 4th Edition. Wiley, 2012-11-26. VitalBook file.

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