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Electronic Beat: Internet Ethics and Speech

Compiled by Jason Morrison

Last updated 28 Oct 1999

The following links send you to sites I’ve found useful in my search for a system of ethics for the internet. The plan is to eventually compare this ethical system or series of systems with those used by journalists. Because of the structure of the net, it may prove useful to define three different groups for which systems of ethics may be written:

  1. Users (who view web pages, purchase products, etc.),
  2. Publishers (who create and maintain web pages, write articles, and sell products),
  3. and Governing Bodies (who maintain domain names, national governments, and other groups in a position to enhance/alter the flow of information between the above).

The third category seems to have the most rigorous ethical systems devised, not by members of that category but usually by watchdog-type organizations and free speech organizations. In short, those with a vested interest in the actions of members of category three.

Category one, on the other hand, is a bit less interesting. Most of what I’ve found so far are lists of ‘netiquette’ dos and don’ts. Still, there may very well be something more out there, and I will continue to look.

I have yet to find much in category two, but I believe that is because most web publishers approach their work as and extension of their current profession, i.e. journalists, advertisers, scholars, etc. It is also interesting to note that because of the ease of publishing on the web, John Q. User from category one may also have a homepage placing him in category two as well. The lines between one and two are often blurred by the nature of the medium.

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