The Internet, Ethics and Morality

Topics: Government, Howard Rheingold, Morality Pages: 7 (2572 words) Published: November 22, 2008
The "Information Superhighway", or Internet, is a powerful medium for today's information driven society. From it's humble beginnings as a series of networks established to help the military and government share resources, it has become a place for people to engage in commerce and also for people to interact socially in both business and personal faculties. Along with the excellent opportunities for meaningful communication in this new atmosphere, the Internet has evolved as an open, democratic cyber society marked by free speech and volunteerism. It is a community gathering place for people to share ideas, concerns, stories and opinions, and to give help and assistance to one another. (Mills-Scofield) There has also arisen a series of problems. Whenever any major development in society is conceived, such as when telephones were introduced, problems ensue. The Internet, because of its modern nature is not really well dealt with when it comes to existing ethical and moral issues. Being that the Internet has fostered a new class of community that requires a unique category of moral values and ethical considerations. Things are always going to be dealt with differently when it comes to any revolutionary type of medium. For instance how can the federal government regulate interstate trade when it is electronically transmitted information? It is a whole new category, how could the constitution have predicted? Although there are many differences, The Internet mirrors today's society to a large degree, with its blend of good and bad. Many of the issues facing the U.S. and the world, such as those related to race or gender, for example, are also issues on the Internet. And various subcultures, such as militias, GenX and philosophical movements, are represented. (Mills- Scofield) They go on further to say, Like all societies, the Internet has its unwritten rules--its"netiquette. Last year, a law firm caused a major uproar by posting an ad for its services on 6,000 Usenet newsgroups. That kind of activity, known as "spamming," just isn't done. Companies should convey their messages selectively and appropriately. (Mills-Scofield) the society that has developed on the 'information superhighway' is unique in its structure and features. Nowhere else in the world can a person achieve such anonymity as on the Internet. It is a forum for all discussions. There has never been a place in the entire world where a person could publish something that is available to so much of the world. With the exception of religious scripts, nothing written has ever had such a potential audience. (Hiltz 445)

With the new medium being such a powerful instrument how can the world keep up? In what ways does The Constitution, a nationalist document written in 1787, deal with the international questions of 1996? How can information be a crime? How should someone convicted of a computer crime be punished? According to an act passed recently in the U.S. Congress, it will be illegal to provide anything that the government calls pornography on the net, where it could be accessible to people under 18. One point about the legislation that arouses curiosity is the lingering question of who actually makes the call on what is wrong and what is correct for people to see and/or experience. Who is the person who gets to put their morality into this law? How is this person chosen? Interestingly enough there aren't laws that restrict people under 18 from driving on freeways with very risqué Calvin Klein ads along the side. If the ACLU isn't successful in it's attempt to quash this legislation, which it is attempting today, the government will have more of a foundation on which they can restrict the rights of Americans in other arenas later. Once a precedent is set they do not ever let it go. Income taxes were once only four percent on the top one percent of the nation. These arenas extend far into the reaches of private life and commercial enterprise. The price we have to...

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