The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics presents a series of brief videos on key issues in Internet ethics, as identified by Silicon Valley leaders. The participants include the co-founders of Adobe and Reputation.com, as well as the CEOs of Symantec and Seagate. Over the course of 10 weeks, a new video will be uploaded each week.
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The Internet has surely surpassed the expectations of its pioneers. As a communication medium, it is unparalleled in scope and impact. However, the ease of publication in the Web 2.0 world has created new ethical dilemmas. In this brief video, Adobe Chairman of the Board Charles Geschke points out the gap between what Internet users expect to receive (i.e. factual and accurate information) and what they too often get instead. Is it the user's responsibility to judge which sources to access on the Web, and how much to rely on them? Is it the publishers of information who have a duty to strive to be accurate?
Below, Sally Lehrman (Knight Ridder/San Jose Mercury News Endowed Chair in Journalism and the Public Interest at Santa Clara University, and a Markkula Center for Applied Ethics Scholar) responds to Geschke's comments. Add your own responses in the "Comments" section!
"The Internet has certainly opened up opportunities for anyone to publish whatever they want. In some ways, the proliferation of voices is good. It provides access to ideas and perspectives that traditional news gatherers might miss. It also can put pressure on news organizations to get things right. But, as Mr. Geschke points out, it's hard to tell when the information packaged like news on the Internet is really just marketing or propaganda. That's why brands like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and local sites such as Patch.com and your own local newspaper are valuable. Their reporting can be trusted.
Ethical traditions in journalism ensure multiple sources and careful attention to facts. But many people have come to expect their news for free, and feet-on-the-ground reporting and fact-checking are expensive. That makes it very difficult for true news operations to survive. Unfortunately, we're seeing a decline in quality as a result. The public must learn to discern--and value--quality news. One way is to learn more about traditional journalism ethics guidelines, found (on the Internet!) on sites such as www.spj.org/ethics.asp and www.rtdna.org/channel/ethics."