CYBERETHICS: THE NEXUS OF CYBER LAW AND ETHICS

CYBERETHICS: THE NEXUS OF CYBER LAW AND ETHICS

If you encounter online or was personally directed this twitter post “Do the world a favor, kill yourself. P.S. Have a nice day[1], how will this impact to you as an individual? Perhaps, you may feel assaulted, annoyed or threatened or you might just not mind it or just tweet #AlDubYou [2].  We have to admit that across the internet lies the temptation or simply, an option to cause an action, a reaction,or  to stress a point,  to cause some distress  or  plainly, purposely sought to harm another. And we build conflicts along the way that develop to a cycle, that spreads and escalates online affecting vulnerable and unseen targets, a cycle of indifference, a web of wrongs, if not a culture of criminal minds.

We are so exposed to the many threats this online world offers. We may keep quiet, abort from the cyberspace or just simply escape. But where does freedom really lie? Others pose that right to self expression should not be hampered by certain limitations as rules or laws regulating the social media. And we raise the issues that the right to internet access is a recognized human right as pointed by the United Nations, that wifi or the internet now included in the hierarchy of needs, and this should not be derogated upon, not even by our own governments.

We have gone too far.  We have been through a lot that our liberty is now even questioned or say,  must be regulated.  A noted author, Patrick Henry in his speech to the Virginia Convention of 1775  opined, Give me liberty or give me death!! Will the finding of the Philippines’ Supreme Court that the cyber crime law is constitutional, a death of liberty in social media?

This discourse on cyber law and ethics or aptly, cyberethics[3] redound to the very basics of liberty, that freedom to determine what is good from not, what is right or wrong. We are given that power to decide on when, where and what to act, but  in social media we are always called to act, that discernment requires us to tick or click. We are aware of what we are posting as distinguished from mere utterances and be immediately liable for slander or defamation charges. We can have second thoughts or even more considerations before we can click. Sometimes there may be some urgency aspects but mere tweets, status or whatever posts can be reviewed prior to clicking, thus, the options to edit or delete.

Yes, the choice is ours, as Whitney would say on her song, “the choice is yours, there’s a miracle in store” . This is where our liberty in social media runs through, free will. And here lies responsibility for the actions we may make, the miracle in store that could be influential in the online world.

It is of good importance to note that the essence and nature of crimes dwell on its being intentional or deliberate. Thus, the dictum in criminal law, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea which simply means there is no crime when there is no intent or when the mind is not criminal applies.  That each of us are fully aware of what we do; that discernment is present, that we decide on whether or not we will do good or avoid a wrong. Otherwise, there may be justifying or exceptional circumstances that may free us from liability.

But damage is done, conflict has awakened after the online circulation. In social media, a click cannot fall on lack of skill or foresight because you commit immediately, violate the right of another that would give another the right of action against you, again, by just a click, damage is done, that wrong inked in the unseen cyberspace.

So we can be criminals by definition when we go beyond the words and intendment of the law; when we go against exercising our liberties to the detriment of others.  We violate privacy, we get movies and music, we make unecessary comments, we bash others. We compare ourselves to others bridging misunderstanding and hate. We commit a wrong when we can make things, right.

So the concept of cyberethics originates from our freedom to act, on the liberty regulated by our duty to ourselves and towards others, to the world that we have a responsibility protecting. And this I believe is the essence or  philosophy of cyber laws and certain rights, albeit, in the internet and social media— that is to act responsibly.

I remember John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and the social contract theorists like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. While we are entitled to certain liberties and freedoms, this should not be used to put to naught the freedoms or liberties of others. We have a responsibility as we seal our contract in the society at large, by being citizens or aptly, netizens.

Again, I emphasize, if we can do things right, why should we choose a wrong? I remember my last year’s stint in the Catholic Social Media Summit on justice. I borrowed St Thomas Aquinas’ concept that it originates from a habitual exercise of doing what is good and right, by giving what is due to others. This one must really be the transformation that we must help—to be a habit, we can practice and spread in social media.

By now, we should not make a habit out of our criminal acts arising from the exercise of the social media and the internet because otherwise, the cyberspace will just be a space without a meaning or purpose.

We need to form a habit out of doing right and just in the clicks and ticks as able bodied, responsible netizens. With this, we are building integrity for ourselves and the cyber world as we can influence others from developing a habitual exercise of the virtue of justice.  If we can, we must be part of bridging networks of solidarity and circles of integrity by exercising freedom and liberty, responsibly.  Let us learn from the mistakes of the past, then we participate and become instrumental in our commitment to renew and influence others to do the same. We pass and share online, the message of giving what is due others. And thus, we build a cyber world with Justice– Plugged in.

 

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[1]  This twitter post is one of the 8,000 posts received by complainant Alyce Zeoli that became a subject of a case in Maryland, USA. The judge said the death wishes were covered by free speech. (Warren, Lydia, ‘Do the World a favor and go kill your self’: One of the 8,000 horrifying online death threats a judge has ruled’free speech’. Dailymail.co.uk, accessed on October 10, 2015)

[2] This famous hashtag that trended online because of the “Kalyeserye” of the Philippines’ noon time show Eat Bulaga featuring the loveteam of Nicomaine Mendoza aka Yaya Dub and Alden Richards.

[3] As used herein, refers to the study of the relations of ethics and cyber law.

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