Reflections on Ethics and the Internet

This was no mere process of self-examination; still less a mere process of criticism and condemnation directed against the society in which he lived. Socrates was not acting in his private capacity. He had become, at Apollo's bidding, the organ by which the corporate consciousness of the Greeks examined and criticized itself. And that is the function of his followers. Each one of them criticizes his neighbors' ideas of what they are and what they are doing in order thereby to criticize his own idea of himself and what he is doing; and tries to amend his own idea of himself in order to amend his neighbors' ideas of themselves.
-- R.G. Collingwood, The First Mate's Log
Ethical questions arise quite naturally among human beings, but the languages in which they are expressed and the concepts from which they are framed vary considerably across cyberspace. That cyberhavior calls for moral critique (analysis not anathama) is, therefore, predictable enough; it should not be overlooked, however, that the Internet problematizes moral reflection--not merely by generating familiar uncertainties over matters of fact, but by introducing new species of uncertainty over matters of interpretation.

Nevertheless, the Net itself provides an ideal forum for conducting collective inquiry--precisely what is most needed as variations in values and judgments proliferate through cyberspace. Accordingly, to offer guidelines for navigating the moral contours of cyberspace is more a matter of providing context than stipulating content. The following items therefore delineate certain features of cyberhavior that are likely to pose moral problems; this list is obviously inexhaustive.