Internet Ethics: Issues that Push the Boundaries
Ethics in a Virtual World
While the internet has brought with it a vast amount of resources, business opportunities, artistic expressions and an endless number of new conveniences, it has not been without its share of criticisms. With the emergence of this virtually unsupervised world, has come the realization that "the internet knows no physical boundaries and also no moral or ethical ones"(Emmans, 2000, p.25). The internet is a world that seems to meet every type of person's needs, wants, and expectations. Therefore, defining a set of ethics and then regulating the content of the web based on it would inevitably violate someone's constitutional rights. A few of the most ethically and morally scrutinized areas of the internet have been the use of the web to display/sell pornography, to present false information or identities, and to provide data and files suspected of enabling and promoting piracy. Aspects of each of these types of internet information have caused a stir among many who question the benefits of the freedom and leeway that the web provides. These questions and controversies introduce "the free speech and censorship debate"(Porter, 1998, p. 122). In the book, Rhetorical Ethics and Internetworked Writing, James Porter examines this debate and recognizes that although free speech is a right, harassment is a form of free speech in which legal action can be taken(1998)
Internet Pornography: Easy Access
Possibly the largest, easiest to access and most accessed type of information on the internet is pornography. Perhaps this is the reason, in addition to its controversial content, why it is so widely discussed and judged. Concerns about porn on the web are based primarily upon its easy accessibility to minors. However, how do you regulate it without infringing on the rights of those that are of legal age to view it? Well, it isn't easy.
The Communications Decency Act, which "made it a felony to make sexually explicit material that is patently offensive available to minors over the internet", was passed by congress, signed into law by President Clinton and then declared unconstitutional by a judicial review all in a short amount of time(Beaver, 2000, p.376). Proceeding this failure, another more specific act, the Child Online Protection Act, was created that introduced the idea of requiring a credit card number upon entering any commercial adult site. This act, which relied on internet security, was also faced with much opposition and in February of 1999, it too, was ruled unconstitutional(Beaver, 2000).
The difficulty that these acts both faced is just a small dose of the reality that the internet will not be limited or regulated easily. Is it the right of all legal adults to post or view pornography on the internet? Should pornography be considered as merely another e-business venture that has been brought about by the invention of the World Wide Web? Is protecting...