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Ethics and Electronic Media


The October 11, 2010, issue of NEWSWEEK has two articles that should be of concern to those interested in electronic media. 

The first has to do with the drug war in Mexico. Drug cartels have intimidated the majority of print media in certain areas of Mexico into ignoring the cartel related violence. However, one Mexican blogger has managed to obtain information about the drug killings and has even posted pictures of those killed by the cartels. In fact this narcoblogger has apparently helped solve one case in which a prison warden freed inmates at night to carry out cartel hits. 

Clearly this has demonstrated the power of electronic media to carry out "traditional" journalism scoops. 

But another article, on the android phenomena, while praising the ability of the 'droids to bring massive amounts of information to users' fingertips and to disseminate information useful to voters in keeping the U.S.'s democratic phenomena alive, also points out that such access to information can also work in reverse, i.e., it can provide "5 billion surveillance points" for governments, corporations, and other groups seeking to take advantage of individuals and our society's underpinnings.

What's the import of all this? Electronic media developers see their devices for what they are: neutral implements, having no intrinsically good nor bad natures. As these media settle into permanence in our global society, we must wrestle with the ethics of their use, not the devices themselves. 

It's true that science and technology maintain a very weak hold on the ethics of technology. Responsible ethics of these fields may and should declare certain technological tools to be banned from future development, or severely restricted to ban detrimental effects on humans, individual and collective,  (certain weapons, engineered foods, tools or products abetting environmental degradation).

But in my mind, these new 'droids and other media devices are as neutral as radio, TV, and newspapers. The ethics of these media should be developed to rein in the various usages that prove detrimental to the security and future development of society and the individuals that make up our society.