The domain name of your website needs to be catchy and descriptive of the content that one would find by visiting. It needs to be memorable and easy to type by even the most novice of Internet users. Although you might have the perfect name for your site in mind, there are several ways that it could be detrimental to your purposes. Once you pay to register a domain, there may be no going back. What can you do to avoid making mistakes when registering a domain?

Things to avoid when registering domain names

Depending on how long you pay for the registration of your domain, it may be the name of your website for several years. In most cases, you may not be able to change this once it has been registered. Pay attention to how you’re setting up your website in order to avoid embarrassments or errors.

Too long to type

You don’t want a domain name that takes too long to type. Even if your company has an excessively long name, it would be better to condense it for Internet use. For example, a company named “Bob’s Coffee House and Internet Cafe” would be considered too long. This could be condensed in ways such as, “BobsCoffee.com” or abbreviations such as, “BCIC.com.” Once visitors are on the website, you can then have the full name of the company displayed.

Play on words

Some domain names have innocent enough intentions. However, domains don’t normally separate specific words in order to promote the site. Some names can be assumed to mean one thing and not something else. For example, a website for pens, named “penisland.com” could be viewed as something less innocent. The popular tech-help website of “ExpertsExchange.com” can also be misread as something else entirely. In some cases, a play on words such as this may not be realized until much later. If you can avoid such word play, it may be better for your site.

Improper TLD extension

The Top Level Domain extensions are also important when considering the name. Although the most common TLDs end with .com, .net or .org, there is currently a wide list to choose from. Some extensions have specific requirements such as living in Asian countries when registering .asia names. Many people associate the extension with what the website delivers. For example, .org is usually associated with organizations and non-profit establishments while .gov is associated with government websites.

Names which are too focused

Generalizing what your business does may be more pertinent for those looking for your content. For example: If you serve award winning chicken at your restaurant, you may be tempted to use “BestChicken.com.” However, you then alienate those individuals looking for the steak and other foods you may serve. Not everyone likes the taste of chicken and someone may be looking for information regarding steak. If you serve many different foods, a better domain name would be, “CookedDelicacies.com.” Although, it may be better if you could use the restaurant’s name as it will help in online branding and marketing.

Brainstorm other ideas

Before you’re ready to register a domain, brainstorm and come up with different variants. This will help in case the name you’re looking for is unavailable. Many people have spent quite a bit of time looking at the computer screen as they try to come up with a name that hasn’t been taken yet. This is where a thesaurus can come into use as you find similar words in order to create a unique site. Having a short list such as this could save you a lot of time while helping you find the names you want to use instead of automated suggestions.

Spellcheck

Before you submit your order to register a name you want to use, always spellcheck. All too often, website owners will submit an order and register a name that has been misspelled. While some people will simply use the domain name anyway, others may be more inclined to make another purchase to get the name they want. Instead of owning a single domain, these individuals now have two. Take a moment and make sure the name is exactly how you want it spelled.

Hyphens

Although domain names can use hyphens, it’s best if you could avoid these at all costs. Many professionals believe that a hyphen makes the site look cheap and unorganized. There have also been studies performed where hyphenating the domain name to accentuate keywords had no real effect in search engines. In fact, these sites performed poorly against sites with the same name without a hyphen.

What to look for when setting up a domain name

By taking some time and planning out the strategy of your website before registering a domain name, you can optimize the chances for future success. From the marketing aspect of your site to using specific keywords, it can all play into how well the site will perform.

Social marketing

If you could match your website to a social media handle, you can begin to create an even flow of cross marketing. For example, the Twitter handle “@google” is related to the popular search engine “google.com.” Matching the social media aspect to your website may help strengthen the online reputation of your site.

Keywords

Try to use at least one keyword in your domain that refers to what you’re trying to accomplish. Although it may not play a part in optimization techniques, it can still help people identify your content. It helps visitors relate what to expect within your site. A domain named, “ChadsFishEmporium.com” would prompt potential visitors to believe that it’s a website related to fish. Would you trust a site named “Fax.com” or “CarFax.com” when looking for automobile information?

Site preservation

People will often use the TLD extension of a site in order to ride on the coattails of the success of someone else. Instead of .com, someone could use your site’s name using a .net. If an unsuspecting visitor uses the .net extension instead of your .com, the other website owner could steal your traffic. This is why many people will purchase various extensions and have them redirected to the primary website.

For example, “google.net” is automatically redirected to “google.com” when someone types it into their browser. Many website owners don’t put much thought into protecting their sites from such extension hijacking. If you can afford to do so, buying your domains with those various TLDs can help protect your site from those looking to cash in on your success.

The integrity of your domain name will play a prominent role in how well the site will perform on the Internet. Take the time to develop a domain name that is effective and logical for what you wish to accomplish. It will directly affect your online reputation.

Source:  http://internet.com/domains/registering-a-domain-name-mistakes-not-to-make/

 

Categorized in Internet Ethics

 

As of late June, 32.5% of page one Google results now use the HTTPS protocol, according to a new study from Moz.The esteemed Dr Pete published a blog post this week on the data they’ve been tracking in the two year period since Google announced HTTPS was to be a light ranking signal in August 2014.

The results are definitely enough to give SEOs pause for thought when it comes to considering whether to switch their sites to a secure protocol.

What is HTTPS?

In case you need a refresher, here is Jim Yu’s explanation of the difference between http and HTTPS:

HTTP is the standard form used when accessing websites. HTTPS adds an additional layer of security by encrypting in SSL and sharing a key with the destination server that is difficult to hack.

And here is Google’s 2014 announcement:

“We’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now, it’s only a very lightweight signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals, such as high-quality content.”
But over time, the promise that Google would strengthen the signal “to keep everyone safe on the Web” seems to be coming true…

HTTPS as a ranking signal in 2014

Searchmetrics found little difference between HTTP and HTTPS rankings in the months after the initial Google announcement. Hardly surprising as it did only affect 1% of results.Moz also saw very little initial difference. Prior to August 2014, 7% of page one Google results used HTTPS protocol. A week after the update announcement, that number increased to 8%.

So we all went about our business, some of us implemented, some of us didn’t. No big whoop. It’s not like it’s AMP or anything! Amirite?

SMASH CUT TO:

HTTPS as a ranking signal in 2016

Moz has found that one-third of page one Google results now use HTTPS.

moz https results

 

As Dr Pete points out, due to the gradual progression of the graph, this probably isn’t due to specific algorithm changes as you would normally see sharp jumps and plateaus. Instead it may mean that Google’s pro-HTTPS campaign has been working.

“They’ve successfully led search marketers and site owners to believe that HTTPS will be rewarded, and this has drastically sped up the shift.”
Projecting forward it’s likely that in 16–17 months time, HTTPS results may hit 50% and Dr Pete predicts an algorithm change to further bolster HTTPS in about a year.

Source:  https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/07/07/https-websites-account-for-30-of-all-google-search-results/

 

 

Categorized in Search Engine

One in four Americans don't have access to internet. Boggles the mind, doesn't it? The reason why some of us do not have access, according to ConnectHome, the public-private initiative responsible for addressing it, is a complex cocktail that boils down to the fact that providers don't go into poor areas because it doesn't pay well. This is one of the key issues behind the ongoing story of net neutrality.

Imagine if we didn't put water, plumbing or electricity in "poor areas?" We do because they are public utilities. If the United States Court of Appeals has its way, the Internet is going to join the necessity list (and about time, in my opinion).

Internet providers discriminate

Today's ruling against Internet providers by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said that the Internet is a core service, like phone service, water or electricity, and so providers should not be allowed to discriminate Internet traffic. Just like we all should be able to drink clean water from any tap, you should be able to get good Internet no matter who or where you are. This opens the door further to ensuring all Americans get access to information.

Information is a modern necessity, not a nice to have

For many people, it's easier to go without water for a few hours than to stay away from the Internet. It's where you go to get your questions answered, to learn new subjects, to get your news, dive into work, and connect with friends and co-workers. The list of applications many people use daily, like Gmail, Slack, LinkedIn, Snapchat or Uber, is staggering--and only growing. That's why it's refreshing that a federal court just ruled that the Internet is a necessity, not a nice-to-have.

The weight of evidence is moving in this direction. The Federal Trade Commission reached that conclusion as well in its report this year:

When Americans increasingly rely on broadband for job opportunities, healthcare, education, public safety, and civic participation, but nearly 34 million Americans couldn't get high-speed fixed broadband even if they wanted it; when rural Americans are nearly ten times more likely than their urban peers to be bypassed by online opportunities; when 47 percent of our students don't have sufficient bandwidth at school to use the latest digital learning tools, we cannot say that we are meeting the standard Congress set forth. We have a moral and statutory obligation to do better.

Users shouldn't be limited in their pursuit of information

In the opinion against cable companies controlling Internet access and discriminating against traffic, the U.S. Court cited the threat, for example, that "a broadband provider like Comcast might limit its end-user subscribers' ability to access The New York Times website if it wanted to spike traffic to its own news website, or it might degrade the quality of the connection to a search website like Bing if a competitor like Google paid for prioritized access."

The Court also wrote in the opinion that by, "refusing to inquire into competitive conditions, it shunts broadband service onto the legal track suited to natural monopolies. Because that track provides little economic space for new firms seeking market entry or relatively small firms seeking expansion through innovations in business models or in technology, the Commission's decision has a decent chance of bringing about the conditions under which some (but by no means all) of its actions could be grounded--the prevalence of incurable monopoly."

The battle for Internet access

The battle for your access to the Internet, however, is far from over. According to The New York Times, AT&T immediately said it would fight all the way to the Supreme Court. Comcast, Verizon and other cable providers are expected to feel the same and protect their opportunity to keep your Internet access on their terms.

Souurce:  http://www.inc.com/lisa-calhoun/is-your-internet-a-necessity-or-a-nice-to-have-the-courts-verdict-is-in.html

Categorized in Online Research

Is the Net inherently unethical, or does it simply make it too easy for users to act immorally? Either way, tech too often brings out the worst in even the best of us.

Some people see the Internet as a mirror held up to our culture. If it is, the mirror shows us in an unflattering light.

From newsroom staffers caught off guard on camera in a private moment gone viral on YouTube to dorm room trysts streamed live online, people have no shame about the despicable content they post on the Web. Respect and courtesy are quaint, outdated notions to these Internet citizens.

The people charged with protecting us from such abhorrent behavior not only fail to prevent it, they tacitly or explicitly encourage these breaches in morality because it means more page views, more customers, and more money. For example, YouTube's Community Guidelines state that the company works 24 hours a day, seven days a week to find and remove content that violates its ethical standards. Yet the same poor-taste, non-age-restricted videos appear there week after week, month after month.

Unfortunately, it isn't just misguided college kids or mean-spirited news junkies who propagate these crimes against fairness and human kindness. At a company I worked for, I discovered a senior executive had plagiarized about a dozen different Web sites in a report he had written for a client. He had copied the material directly from the sites and pasted it into his document, changing only a word or two here and there. (In a future post, I'll describe how I inadvertently discovered the plagiarism.)

Nowhere in the document had he mentioned that the material was taken from these sites. When I brought this serious breach of ethics to his attention, he replied, "Don't worry about it."

I told him I was worried about it and insisted he cite in the report the origin of the material. Ultimately, links to the pages from which he "borrowed" were inserted into the document, and a paragraph was added to state that much of the text was taken directly from the sites--though the material appeared without quote marks and without the explicit permission of the sites themselves.

The author of the report is a noted and well-respected scientist. I can only assume that the temptation of stealing the material was too great for him to pass up. If such an esteemed, well-regarded individual succumbed to the Internet's siren song of immorality without a second thought, have we lost the battle to preserve ethics in the online world once and for all?

Internet codes of ethics through the years

In January 1989, the Internet Advisory Board issued a memo titled Ethics and the Internet (RFC 1087) that focused primarily on the need to protect the U.S. government's "fiduciary responsibility to the public to allocate government resources wisely." These guidelines were intended to protect the government's investment in the Internet infrastructure from disruption or lack of access resulting from "irresponsible use."

The five activities proscribed by this code were seeking unauthorized access, disrupting the intended use of the Internet, wasting resources, corrupting data, and compromising the privacy of users. The Computer Ethics Institute has since devised the Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics (PDF), which take a much broader approach.

10 13 10 Ethics1

Along with admonitions not to steal computer resources, use computers to steal or to "bear false witness," or use proprietary software without paying for it is a commandment stating that "thou shalt not appropriate other people's intellectual output." I was delighted to see the last of the 10 commandments:

"Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans."If this last commandment were actually enforced, the YouTube video archive would be considerably smaller.

Pleas for netiquette go unheeded

At the dawning of the Web in 1994, Virginia Shea released the Core Rules of Netiquette, which later became a book and Web site. As Shea points out, the rules describe good online manners and don't address the legal issues entailed in appropriate use of the Internet. However, she states in rule No. 2, "Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life," that any illegal activity is bad Netiquette.

If you're charged with educating students about Internet ethics, the University of Illinois offers Scenarios for Teaching Internet Ethics, which cover such topics as employers reading their employees' e-mail without permission, social-network users posting negative comments about people, and even writers copying material from Web sites and pasting it into their own reports without attribution.

Chris MacDonald maintains the EthicsWeb.ca site, which includes a list of Applied Ethics Resources for businesses, media, health care providers, researchers, government agencies, and computer professionals. Unfortunately, many of the links on the site are no longer active. I hope this doesn't indicate a loss of interest on the part of those sites' developers. It certainly can't be for lack of a need for such resources.

The fight for an ethical Internet may be a lost cause, if only because people's moral compasses appear to be irreparably damaged. Several years ago, a person I worked for instructed me and my co-workers to lie to writers about assignment due dates in an attempt to receive the assignments in a more timely manner.

Another former boss put my name on an e-mail he wrote to the columnists who worked for us, because he knew the columnists would be more willing to accept what the message proposed if they thought it came from me rather than from him. In both cases, I refused to comply.

I'm starting to think there are no ethics in business--my own experience does not refute this assertion. It could be that the lack of negative consequences for immoral, unethical behavior is perceived as tacit approval of such activities. In this regard, I believe the bard may have had it wrong: conscience definitely does not make cowards of us all.

Source:  http://www.cnet.com/news/the-internet-and-the-death-of-ethics/

Categorized in Internet Ethics

Definition of Computer Ethics

Ethics are a set of moral principles that govern an individual or a group on what is acceptable behaviour while using a computer. Computer ethics is a set of moral principles that govern the usage of computers. One of the common issues of computer ethics is violation of copyright issues.

Duplicating copyrighted content without the author’s approval, accessing personal information of others are some of the examples that violate ethical principles.

Internet Ethics for everyone

Internet ethics means acceptable behaviour for using internet. We should be honest, respect the rights and property of others on the internet.

Acceptance

One has to accept that Internet is not a value free-zone .It means World Wide Web is a place where values are considered in the broadest sense so we must take care while shaping content and services and we should recognize that internet is not apart from universal society but it is a primary component of it.

Sensitivity to National and Local cultures

It belongs to all and there is no barrier of national and local cultures. It cannot be subject to one set of values like the local TV channel or the local newspaper we have to accommodate multiplicity of usage.

While using e-Mail and chatting

Internet must be used for communication with family and friends. Avoid chatting with strangers and forwarding e-mails from unknown people /strangers.We must be aware of risks involved in chatting and forwarding e-mails to strangers.

Pretending to be someone else

We must not use internet to fool others by pretending to be someone else. Hiding our own identity to fool others in the Internet world is a crime and may also be a risk to others.

Avoid Bad language

We must not use rude or bad language while using e-Mail, chatting, blogging and social networking, We need to respect their views and should not criticize anyone on the internet.

Hide personal information

We should not give personal details like home address, phone numbers, interests, passwords. No photographs should be sent to strangers because it might be misused and shared with others without their knowledge.

While Downloading

Internet is used to listen and learn about music,It is also used to watch videos and play games we must not use it to download them or share copyrighted material. We must be aware of the importance of copyrights and issues of copyright.

Access to Internet

The internet is a time-efficient tool for everyone that enlarges the possibilities for curriculum growth. Learning depends on the ability to find relevant and reliable information quickly and easily, and to select, understand and assess that information. Searching for information on the internet can help to develop these skills.

Classroom exercises and take-home assessment tasks, where students are required to compare website content, are ideal for alerting students to the requirements of writing for different audiences, the purpose of particular content, identifying and judging accuracy and reliability. Since many sites adopt particular views about issues, the internet is a useful tool for developing the skills of distinguishing fact from opinion and exploring subjectivity and objectivity.

Ethical rules for computer users

Some of the rules that individuals should follow while using a computer are listed below:

Do not use computers to harm other users.

Do not use computers to steal others information.

Do not access files without the permission of the owner.

Do not copy copyrighted software without the author’s permission.

Always respect copyright laws and policies

Respect the privacy of others, just as you expect the same from others.

Do not use other user's computer resources without their permission.

Use Internet ethically.

Complain about illegal communication and activities, if found, to Internet service Providers and local law enforcement authorities.

Users are responsible for safeguarding their User Id and Passwords. They should not write them on paper or anywhere else for remembrance.

Users should not intentionally use the computers to retrieve or modify the information of others, which may include password information, files, etc..

Source:  http://infosecawareness.in/students/internet-ethics

Categorized in Internet Ethics

1. “Today's revolution in social communications involves a fundamental reshaping of the elements by which people comprehend the world about them, and verify and express what they comprehend. The constant availability of images and ideas, and their rapid transmission even from continent to continent, have profound consequences, both positive and negative, for the psychological, moral and social development of persons, the structure and functioning of societies, intercultural communications, and the perception and transmission of values, world views, ideologies, and religious beliefs”.

The truth of these words has become clearer than ever during the past decade. Today it takes no great stretch of the imagination to envisage the earth as an interconnected globe humming with electronic transmissions—a chattering planet nestled in the provident silence of space. The ethical question is whether this is contributing to authentic human development and helping individuals and peoples to be true to their transcendent destiny.

And, of course, in many ways the answer is yes. The new media are powerful tools for education and cultural enrichment, for commercial activity and political participation, for intercultural dialogue and understanding; and, as we point out in the document that accompanies this one,2 they also can serve the cause of religion. Yet this coin has another side. Media of communication that can be used for the good of persons and communities can be used to exploit, manipulate, dominate, and corrupt.

2. The Internet is the latest and in many respects most powerful in a line of media—telegraph, telephone, radio, television—that for many people have progressively eliminated time and space as obstacles to communication during the last century and a half. It has enormous consequences for individuals, nations, and the world.

In this document we wish to set out a Catholic view of the Internet, as a starting point for the Church's participation in dialogue with other sectors of society, especially other religious groups, concerning the development and use of this marvelous technological instrument. The Internet is being put to many good uses now, with the promise of many more, but much harm also can be done by its improper use. Which it will be, good or harm, is largely a matter of choice—a choice to whose making the Church brings two elements of great importance: her commitment to the dignity of the human person and her long tradition of moral wisdom.

3. As with other media, the person and the community of persons are central to ethical evaluation of the Internet. In regard to the message communicated, the process of communicating, and structural and systemic issues in communication, “the fundamental ethical principle is this: The human person and the human community are the end and measure of the use of the media of social communication; communication should be by persons to persons for the integral development of persons”.

The common good—“the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily”5—provides a second basic principle for ethical evaluation of social communications. It should be understood inclusively, as the whole of those worthy purposes to which a community's members commit themselves together and which the community exists to realize and sustain. The good of individuals depends upon the common good of their communities.

The virtue disposing people to protect and promote the common good is solidarity. It is not a feeling of “vague compassion or shallow distress” at other people's troubles, but “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all”.6 Especially today solidarity has a clear, strong international dimension; it is correct to speak of, and obligatory to work for, the international common good.

4. The international common good, the virtue of solidarity, the revolution in communications media and information technology, and the Internet are all relevant to the process of globalization.

To a great extent, the new technology drives and supports globalization, creating a situation in which “commerce and communications are no longer bound by borders”.7 This has immensely important consequences. Globalization can increase wealth and foster development; it offers advantages like “efficiency and increased production... greater unity among peoples... a better service to the human family”.8 But the benefits have not been evenly shared up to now. Some individuals, commercial enterprises, and countries have grown enormously wealthy while others have fallen behind. Whole nations have been excluded almost entirely from the process, denied a place in the new world taking shape. “Globalization, which has profoundly transformed economic systems by creating unexpected possibilities of growth, has also resulted in many people being relegated to the side of the road: unemployment in the more developed countries and extreme poverty in too many countries of the Southern Hemisphere continue to hold millions of women and men back from progress and prosperity”.

It is by no means clear that even societies that have entered into the globalization process have done so entirely as a matter of free, informed choice. Instead, “many people, especially the disadvantaged, experience this as something that has been forced upon them rather than as a process in which they can actively participate”.

In many parts of the world, globalization is spurring rapid, sweeping social change. This is not just an economic process but a cultural one, with both positive and negative aspects. “Those who are subjected to it often see globalization as a destructive flood threatening the social norms which had protected them and the cultural points of reference which had given them direction in life....Changes in technology and work relationships are moving too quickly for cultures to respond”.

5. One major consequence of the deregulation of recent years has been a shift of power from national states to transnational corporations. It is important that these corporations be encouraged and helped to use their power for the good of humanity; and this points to a need for more communication and dialogue between them and concerned bodies like the Church.

Use of the new information technology and the Internet needs to be informed and guided by a resolute commitment to the practice of solidarity in the service of the common good, within and among nations. This technology can be a means for solving human problems, promoting the integral development of persons, creating a world governed by justice and peace and love. Now, even more than when the Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communications Communio et Progressio made the point more than thirty years ago, media have the ability to make every person everywhere “a partner in the business of the human race”.

This is an astonishing vision. The Internet can help make it real—for individuals, groups, nations, and the human race—only if it is used in light of clear, sound ethical principles, especially the virtue of solidarity. To do so will be to everyone's advantage, for “we know one thing today more than in the past: we will never be happy and at peace without one another, much less if some are against others”.13 This will be an expression of that spirituality of communion which implies “the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God,” along with the ability “to ‘make room' for our brothers and sisters, bearing ‘each other's burdens' (Gal. 6, 2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us”.

6. The spread of the Internet also raises a number of other ethical questions about matters like privacy, the security and confidentiality of data, copyright and intellectual property law, pornography, hate sites, the dissemination of rumor and character assassination under the guise of news, and much else. We shall speak briefly about some of these things below, while recognizing that they call for continued analysis and discussion by all concerned parties. Fundamentally, though, we do not view the Internet only as a source of problems; we see it as a source of benefits to the human race. But the benefits can be fully realized only if the problems are solved.

ABOUT THE INTERNET

7. The Internet has a number of striking features. It is instantaneous, immediate, worldwide, decentralized, interactive, endlessly expandable in contents and outreach, flexible and adaptable to a remarkable degree. It is egalitarian, in the sense that anyone with the necessary equipment and modest technical skill can be an active presence in cyberspace, declare his or her message to the world, and demand a hearing. It allows individuals to indulge in anonymity, role-playing, and fantasizing and also to enter into community with others and engage in sharing. According to users' tastes, it lends itself equally well to active participation and to passive absorption into “a narcissistic, self-referential world of stimuli with near-narcotic effects”.15 It can be used to break down the isolation of individuals and groups or to deepen it.

8. The technological configuration underlying the Internet has a considerable bearing on its ethical aspects: People have tended to use it according to the way it was designed, and to design it to suit that kind of use. This ‘new' system in fact dates back to the cold war years of the 1960s, when it was intended to foil nuclear attack by creating a decentralized network of computers holding vital data. Decentralization was the key to the scheme, since in this way, so it was reasoned, the loss of one or even many computers would not mean the loss of the data.

An idealistic vision of the free exchange of information and ideas has played a praiseworthy part in the development of the Internet. Yet its decentralized configuration and the similarly decentralized design of the World Wide Web of the late 1980s also proved to be congenial to a mindset opposed to anything smacking of legitimate regulation for public responsibility. An exaggerated individualism regarding the Internet thus emerged. Here, it was said, was a new realm, the marvelous land of cyberspace, where every sort of expression was allowed and the only law was total individual liberty to do as one pleased. Of course this meant that the only community whose rights and interests would be truly recognized in cyberspace was the community of radical libertarians. This way of thinking remains influential in some circles, supported by familiar libertarian arguments also used to defend pornography and violence in the media generally.

Although radical individualists and entrepreneurs obviously are two very different groups, there is a convergence of interests between those who want the Internet to be a place for very nearly every kind of expression, no matter how vile and destructive, and those who want it to be a vehicle of untrammeled commercial activity on a neo-liberal model that “considers profit and the law of the market as its only parameters, to the detriment of the dignity of and the respect due to individuals and peoples”.

9. The explosion of information technology has increased the communication capabilities of some favored individuals and groups many times over. The Internet can serve people in their responsible use of freedom and democracy, expand the range of choices available in diverse spheres of life, broaden educational and cultural horizons, break down divisions, promote human development in a multitude of ways. “The free flow of images and speech on a global scale is transforming not only political and economic relations between peoples, but even our understanding of the world. It opens up a range of hitherto unthinkable possibilities”.18 When based upon shared values rooted in the nature of the person, the intercultural dialogue made possible by the Internet and other media of social communication can be “a privileged means for building the civilization of love”.

But that is not the whole story. “Paradoxically, the very forces which can lead to better communication can also lead to increasing self-centeredness and alienation”.20 The Internet can unite people, but it also can divide them, both as individuals and as mutually suspicious groups separated by ideology, politics, possessions, race and ethnicity, intergenerational differences, and even religion. Already it has been used in aggressive ways, almost as a weapon of war, and people speak of the danger of ‘cyber-terrorism.' It would be painfully ironic if this instrument of communication with so much potential for bringing people together reverted to its origins in the cold war and became an arena of international conflict.

SOME AREAS OF CONCERN

10. A number of concerns about the Internet are implicit in what has been said so far.

One of the most important of these involves what today is called the digital divide—a form of discrimination dividing the rich from the poor, both within and among nations, on the basis of access, or lack of access, to the new information technology. In this sense it is an updated version of an older gap between the ‘information rich' and ‘information poor'.

The expression ‘digital divide' underlines the fact that individuals, groups, and nations must have access to the new technology in order to share in the promised benefits of globalization and development and not fall further behind. It is imperative “that the gap between the beneficiaries of the new means of information and expression and those who do not have access to them...not become another intractable source of inequity and discrimination”.21 Ways need to be found to make the Internet accessible to less advantaged groups, either directly or at least by linking it with lower-cost traditional media. Cyberspace ought to be a resource of comprehensive information and services available without charge to all, and in a wide range of languages. Public institutions have a particular responsibility to establish and maintain sites of this kind.

As the new global economy takes shape, the Church is concerned “that the winner in this process will be humanity as a whole” and not just “a wealthy elite that controls science, technology and the planet's resources”; this is to say that the Church desires “a globalization which will be at the service of the whole person and of all people”.

In this connection it should be borne in mind that the causes and consequences of the divide are not only economic but also technical, social, and cultural. So, for example, another Internet ‘divide' operates to the disadvantage of women, and it, too, needs to be closed.

11. We are particularly concerned about the cultural dimensions of what is now taking place. Precisely as powerful tools of the globalization process, the new information technology and the Internet transmit and help instill a set of cultural values—ways of thinking about social relationships, family, religion, the human condition—whose novelty and glamour can challenge and overwhelm traditional cultures.

Intercultural dialogue and enrichment are of course highly desirable. Indeed, “dialogue between cultures is especially needed today because of the impact of new communications technology on the lives of individuals and peoples”.23 But this has to be a two-way street. Cultures have much to learn from one another, and merely imposing the world view, values, and even language of one culture upon another is not dialogue but cultural imperialism.

Cultural domination is an especially serious problem when a dominant culture carries false values inimical to the true good of individuals and groups. As matters stand, the Internet, along with the other media of social communication, is transmitting the value-laden message of Western secular culture to people and societies in many cases ill-prepared to evaluate and cope with it. Many serious problems result—for example, in regard to marriage and family life, which are experiencing “a radical and widespread crisis”24 in many parts of the world.

Cultural sensitivity and respect for other people's values and beliefs are imperative in these circumstances. Intercultural dialogue that “protects the distinctiveness of cultures as historical and creative expressions of the underlying unity of the human family, and...sustains understanding and communion between them” 25 is needed to build and maintain the sense of international solidarity.

12. The question of freedom of expression on the Internet is similarly complex and gives rise to another set of concerns.

We strongly support freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas. Freedom to seek and know the truth is a fundamental human right,26 and freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy. “Man, provided he respects the moral order and the common interest, is entitled to seek after truth, express and make known his opinions...he ought to be truthfully informed about matters of public interest”.27 And public opinion, “an essential expression of human nature organized in society,” absolutely requires “freedom to express ideas and attitudes”.

In light of these requirements of the common good, we deplore attempts by public authorities to block access to information—on the Internet or in other media of social communication—because they find it threatening or embarrassing to them, to manipulate the public by propaganda and disinformation, or to impede legitimate freedom of expression and opinion. Authoritarian regimes are by far the worst offenders in this regard; but the problem also exists in liberal democracies, where access to media for political expression often depends on wealth, and politicians and their advisors violate truthfulness and fairness by misrepresenting opponents and shrinking issues to sound-bite dimensions.

13. In this new environment, journalism is undergoing profound changes. The combination of new technologies and globalization has “increased the powers of the media, but has also made them more liable to ideological and commercial pressures”,29 and this is true of journalism as well.

The Internet is a highly effective instrument for bringing news and information rapidly to people. But the economic competitiveness and round-the-clock nature of Internet journalism also contribute to sensationalism and rumor-mongering, to a merging of news, advertising, and entertainment, and to an apparent decline in serious reporting and commentary. Honest journalism is essential to the common good of nations and the international community. Problems now visible in the practice of journalism on the Internet call for speedy correcting by journalists themselves.

The sheer overwhelming quantity of information on the Internet, much of it unevaluated as to accuracy and relevance, is a problem for many. But we also are concerned lest people make use of the medium's technological capacity for customizing information simply to raise electronic barriers against unfamiliar ideas. That would be an unhealthy development in a pluralistic world where people need to grow in mutual understanding. While Internet users have a duty to be selective and self-disciplined, that should not be carried to the extreme of walling themselves off from others. The medium's implications for psychological development and health likewise need continued study, including the possibility that prolonged immersion in the virtual world of cyberspace may be damaging to some. Although there are many advantages in the capacity technology gives people to “assemble packages of information and services uniquely designed for them”, this also “raises an inescapable question: Will the audience of the future be a multitude of audiences of one?...What would become of solidarity—what would become of love—in a world like that?” 

14. Standing alongside issues that have to do with freedom of expression, the integrity and accuracy of news, and the sharing of ideas and information, is another set of concerns generated by libertarianism. The ideology of radical libertarianism is both mistaken and harmful—not least, to legitimate free expression in the service of truth. The error lies in exalting freedom “to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values....In this way the inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity and ‘being at peace with oneself”'.31 There is no room for authentic community, the common good, and solidarity in this way of thinking.

RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSION

15. As we have seen, the virtue of solidarity is the measure of the Internet's service of the common good. It is the common good that supplies the context for considering the ethical question: “Are the media being used for good or evil?” 

Many individuals and groups share responsibility in this matter—for example, the transnational corporations of which we spoke above. All users of the Internet are obliged to use it in an informed, disciplined way, for morally good purposes; parents should guide and supervise children's use.33 Schools and other educational institutions and programs for children and adults should provide training in discerning use of the Internet as part of a comprehensive media education including not just training in technical skills—‘computer literacy' and the like—but a capacity for informed, discerning evaluation of content. Those whose decisions and actions contribute to shaping the structure and contents of the Internet have an especially serious duty to practice solidarity in the service of the common good.

16. Prior censorship by government should be avoided; “censorship...should only be used in the very last extremity”.34 But the Internet is no more exempt than other media from reasonable laws against hate speech, libel, fraud, child pornography and pornography in general, and other offenses. Criminal behavior in other contexts is criminal behavior in cyberspace, and the civil authorities have a duty and a right to enforce such laws. New regulations also may be needed to deal with special ‘Internet' crimes like the dissemination of computer viruses, the theft of personal data stored on hard disks, and the like.

Regulation of the Internet is desirable, and in principle industry self-regulation is best. “The solution to problems arising from unregulated commercialization and privatization does not lie in state control of media but in more regulation according to criteria of public service and in greater public accountability”.35 Industry codes of ethics can play a useful role, provided they are seriously intended, involve representatives of the public in their formulation and enforcement, and, along with giving encouragement to responsible communicators, carry appropriate penalties for violations, including public censure.36 Circumstances sometimes may require state intervention: for example, by setting up media advisory boards representing the range of opinion in the community.

17. The Internet's transnational, boundary-bridging character and its role in globalization require international cooperation in setting standards and establishing mechanisms to promote and protect the international common good.38 In regard to media technology, as in regard to much else, “there is a pressing need for equity at the international level”.39 Determined action in the private and public sectors is needed to close and eventually eliminate the digital divide.

Many difficult Internet-related questions call for international consensus: for example, how to guarantee the privacy of law-abiding individuals and groups without keeping law enforcement and security officials from exercising surveillance over criminals and terrorists; how to protect copyright and intellectual property rights without limiting access to material in the public domain—and how to define the ‘public domain' itself; how to establish and maintain broad-based Internet repositories of information freely available to all Internet users in a variety of languages; how to protect women's rights in regard to Internet access and other aspects of the new information technology. In particular, the question of how to close the digital divide between the information rich and the information poor requires urgent attention in its technical, educational, and cultural aspects.

There is today a “growing sense of international solidarity” that offers the United Nations system in particular “a unique opportunity to contribute to the globalization of solidarity by serving as a meeting place for states and civil society and as a convergence of the varied interests and needs...Cooperation between international agencies and nongovernmental organizations will help to ensure that the interests of states—legitimate though they may be—and of the different groups within them, will not be invoked or defended at the expense of the interests or rights of other peoples, especially the less fortunate”.40 In this connection we hope that the World Summit of the Information Society scheduled to take place in 2003 will make a positive contribution to the discussion of these matters.

18. As we pointed out above, a companion document to this one called The Church and Internet speaks specifically about the Church's use of the Internet and the Internet's role in the life of the Church. Here we wish only to emphasize that the Catholic Church, along with other religious bodies, should have a visible, active presence on the Internet and be a partner in the public dialogue about its development. “The Church does not presume to dictate these decisions and choices, but it does seek to be of help by indicating ethical and moral criteria which are relevant to the process—criteria which are to be found in both human and Christian values”.

The Internet can make an enormously valuable contribution to human life. It can foster prosperity and peace, intellectual and aesthetic growth, mutual understanding among peoples and nations on a global scale.

It also can help men and women in their age-old search for self-understanding. In every age, including our own, people ask the same fundamental questions: “Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?” 42 The Church cannot impose answers, but she can—and must—proclaim to the world the answers she has received; and today, as always, she offers the one ultimately satisfying answer to the deepest questions of life—Jesus Christ, who “fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling”.43 Like today's world itself, the world of media, including the Internet, has been brought by Christ, inchoately yet truly, within the boundaries of the kingdom of God and placed in service to the word of salvation. Yet “far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come”.

Source: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/pccs/documents/rc_pc_pccs_doc_20020228_ethics-internet_en.html

Categorized in Internet Ethics

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