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As several posters have noted, the internet has contributed to the freeing up of information in more than one way, but a related moral and ethical issue related to this easy access to all sorts of information is plagiarism.
Plagiarism is morally and ethically wrong because it is theft and deception; the plagiarist takes someone else's work and passes it off as her own. The internet allows for easy retrieval of information; that information can be easily copied and pasted into documents written for any number of purposes, whether for classes or businesses or political speeches or whatever.
I mostly teach juniors and seniors in college and every semester, without fail, find very serious instances of plagiarism in student papers. I'm sure that I don't catch all instances of plagiarism and suspect that a number of students have plagiarized over and over again without getting caught before entering my courses. (Plagiarism is easy to detect, even without using services such as TurnItIn.com, if a reader is attentive to shifts in the language and style in the document.)
I worry about teachers at all levels relying too heaving on one method of detecting plagiarism (such as TurnItIn.com) and avoiding the more challenging but probably more important method of teaching and modelling good practices when it comes to using other people's ideas in one's own writing.
The moral question raised by the internet is also more of a political one centered on the issue of freedom. Like most scientific advancements, the proliferation of the internet led to questions which might not have been originally foreseen at the time of invention. The notion of individual freedom and responsibility has been something that has been the source of questioning and agony. Should the internet has limits on viewing? Where is the line between responsible usage and censorship? At the same time, is the act of limiting the internet a regulation where freedom is taken away from individuals? I think that the ethical issue of freedom and limitations on the internet might be areas where the Internet has developed a dilemma not originally foreseen.
As more and more communication and business take place over the internet, traditional methods for how this was monitored or regulated, and the constitutional protections we have for privacy, have all been cast in a different light.
The government surely has the authority to monitor the internet for fraud, ID theft and potential terrorist or other illegal activity, but at what cost to my right to privacy? Do they have a right to know what books I order from Amazon.com or how much I have in my checking account? While they should be able to monitor for terrorist groups using the net to communicate and coordinate, should they be able to read my email without a court order?
Another fact is that, before the internet, the FBI had pretty much run child pornography rings into the ground in this country. Now that the net is worldwide and everyone has digital cameras, the number of child exploitation cases has skyrocketed. Do the benefits of information, communication and business outweigh the cost to society that brings?
I would say that the moral and ethical issues raised by the internet are largely centered around privacy and sexual morality.
The internet has made it possible for more people to come in contact with one another than was every possible before. This access to one another makes issues of privacy important. It is necessary to protect information that could be harmful to the person it refers to.
Because more people can contact one another, people in one part of the world can be brought into contact with information from other parts of the world with very different values. Children can be brought into contact with "adult" information. Both of these situations are moral dilemmas -- do we allow for freedom of access or do we try to protect certain moral values from being challenged?
Internet has made the job of distance communication very fast, convenient and economical for individuals as well as for large organization. Because of this Internet is becoming the most important means of communication used by individuals for their personal communication and for businesses for their marketing communications. The major ethical and moral issues raised by the technological capabilities of the Internet and its widespread use include the issues of privacy, confidentiality, and freedom of information dissemination. In addition, the use of Internet also affects the issues of intellectual property rights by making it very easy for people to infringe upon these.
Reducing cost and increasing convenience of Internet communication has provides additional value to the customers. At the same time it has also created the nuisance of unwanted spam mails and excessive advertisements. Also confidentiality of individuals and organizations is very much threatened as technology has made it possible do collect and analyse data on the personal information about the Internet users very easily.
Another important issue is that of easy availability of all types of information products available on the Internet. It becomes very difficult to regulate individuals, and particularly younger people getting access to material that may not be fit for them , and may incite wrong kind of sexual or criminal behavior among such people.
Finally another problem is that of violation of intellectual property rights. In some cases the moral issues are not very clear. For example, though the Internet technology has made it very economical to make copies of music and distribute on a large scale. However the companies holding copyrights for music, have tried to retain for themselves the benefit of technology, keep the price of music sold very high. This is also one kind of hoarding. AS a result many consumers groups responded by free distributing music free on the Internet. The issues of ethics in this respect are open to wide interpretations.
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