Cyberethics – RIM: We’d Shut Down BBM Under Government Order


The 21st century has been characterized by rapid technological advancements. The advancements have led to increased focus on cyberethics. Cyberethics refers to the study of ethics that relate to computers and how user behavior affects other individuals in the society. Technological developments have improved the ability of people to share information with other people who may be thousands of miles away. However, the government may censor certain information if it deems the information to contain foul language, pose a threat to national security, piracy or if the information contains grotesque images. There are generally two types of censorship. These include censorship by suppression and censorship by prohibition. In both instances, a certain group of people must have the perception that the information violates moral, political or other grounds that are vital in the peaceful coexistence of the society. Censorship by suppression prevents the publishing or circulation of information that is deemed objectionable. This may be done through the blocking of the material, destroying the material, or making the material inaccessible to people. On the other hand, censorship by deterrence does not prevent the publishing or circulation of the material. In fact, the material may be accessible to many people. Threats of arrest, conviction, and severe punishments against people who acquire the material are some of the major features of this form of prohibition. Threats of various forms of social disenfranchisement may also deter people from acquiring the material ((Spinello, 2013).

In the case in question, blocking of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) by the U.K. government would amount to censorship by suppression. It would ensure that people cannot access their BBM’s if there is civil unrest. This would infringe on people’s right to free speech and information equality. It is wrong for the U.K. government to use censorship by suppression. This is due to the fact that the use of information technology among children is the only one that should be monitored. As for adults, they have the right to choose the courses of action they should take upon receiving certain information. In addition, they know the risks that their choices face (Zeman, 2011).

It is wrong for the U.K. government to use national security as the major reason for censorship. This is due to the fact that if the government is not doing anything wrong it should have anything to fear in ensuring its citizens have free speech. Blocking BBM would prevent people who use the messenger for their own economic or social reasons from accessing it. Therefore, it is wrong for the government to use blanket condemnation of all people who use BBM in undertaking their daily activities. The cell phone is critical in the lives of many people in the contemporary world. The article highlights some of the positive uses of the cell phone. In case of emergencies, one may use the cell phone to request for help. If people who are affected by the blocking of BBM face emergencies, they may be unable to call for help. BBM enables them to share information cheaply by circumventing the operator SMS charges (Zeman, 2011).

The U.K. government may have used censorship by deterrence to reduce the impact of the censorship on people who use BBM. This would necessitate the government to formulate laws that prohibit people from sending messages that would cause civil unrest. The government should ensure that it accesses conversation records of people who it suspects were responsible for civil unrest. The jurisprudence of the cyberspace strives to balance individual rights and public good. However, it is a fact that libel, pornography, and hate speech and threats are all negative forms of free expression that pose significant challenges to the jurisprudence of the cyberspace. Ideally, people should regulate their own expressions by desisting from intimidating people, engaging in hate speech, or disseminating pornographic material to children. However, in the absence of such behavior relevant parties must ensure that people do not use information technology to engage in activities that violate moral, political or other values that are the glue of the society (Spinello & Tavani, 2004).

Government regulation is one of the methods of tackling the above problems. The government should also implement complex filtering devices. Improved precision and accuracy of the filtering devices would enable the regulatory bodies determine violations to the regulations easily. However, all the measures that strive improper use of information technology tools must respect personal autonomy and align with other moral values. This increases the need for the ethical reflection on how universal moral standards can be adhered while developing constrains that help in tackling deviant behavior in the cyberspace. Failure to consider this would result to tyranny of laws in the cyberspace (Spinello & Tavani, 2004).

Another option is failure to take action against people who engage in deviant behavior in the cyberspace. Governments should give people the right to engage in controversial forms of speech in the cyberspace. This would require people to tolerate all forms of speech just as they do in the real world. This is due to the fact that censorship is usually characterized by difficulty in distinguishing constructive speech from harmful speech (Spinello, 2013).

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