Cyberspace is a global community of people using computers in networks. In order to function well, the virtual communities supported by the Internet depend upon rules of conduct, the same as any society. Librarians and information technologists must be knowledgeable about ethical issues for the welfare of their organizations and to protect and advise users. What is ethics? Ethics is the art of determining what is right or good. It can also be defined as a general pattern or way of life, a set of rules of conduct or moral code. Ethical guidelines are based on values. The Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) is one national organization which has developed a statement of its values. Every member of ACM is expected to uphold the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct which includes these general moral imperatives:
1) contribute to society and human well-being
2) avoid harm to others
3) be honest and trustworthy
4) be fair and take action not to discriminate
5) honor property rights including copyrights and patents 6) give proper credit for intellectual property
7) respect the privacy of others
8) honor confidentiality.
The very nature of electronic communication raises new moral issues. Individuals and organizations should be proactive in examining these concerns and developing policies which protect liabilities. Issues which need to be addressed include: privacy of mail, personal identities, access and control of the network, pornographic or unwanted messages, copyright, and commercial uses of the network. An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is recommended as the way an organization should inform users of expectations and responsibilities. Sample AUPs are available on the Internet at gopher sites and can be retrieved by using Veronica to search keywords "acceptable use policies" or "ethics." The Computer Ethics Institute in Washington, D.C. has developed a...