Global media ethics is the study and application of the norms that should guide the responsible use of informational public media that is now global in content, reach, and impact. Its aim is to define responsible use of the freedom to publish for journalism, online commentary, political advocacy, and social media. Global media ethics proposes aims, principles, and norms for global media work, and pays special attention to coverage of global issues such as climate change, immigration, and terrorism. The primary principles tend to stress media protection and advancement of human rights, human development, and global social justice. However, “global media ethics” does not refer to something clear, singular, or established. There is no one code of global media ethics. Global media ethics is a work in progress, a contested zone where globalists advance rival ideas, while skeptics dismiss global ethics as a dream that can never be realized. Among the conceptual challenges of constructing a global media ethics is the issue of whether universal values exist in media practice around the world, how an appeal to global values can avoid cultural imperialism, such as imposing Western values on non-Western cultures, and to what extent media practitioners can find common ethical ground. Much theorizing in the field of global media ethics discusses forms of cross-border ethical dialogue that are likely to produce fair and inclusive agreement on principles among practitioners. Ultimately, the main questions for global media ethics are: (1) How should the aims and roles of journalism and informational media be redefined given the fact that media is now global? (2) What are the principles for global media and how do they apply to nonprofessional online writers? (3) How does global media ethics alter existing practice, especially the coverage of global issues? And (4) By what methods would such an ethic be constructed, endorsed, and implemented in practice?
Stephen J. A. Ward
Since the early 2000s, Digital Media Ethics (DME) has emerged as a relatively stable subdomain of applied ethics. DME seeks nothing less than to address the ethical issues evoked by computing technologies and digital media more broadly, such as cameras, mobile and smartphones, GPS navigation systems, biometric health monitoring devices, and, eventually, “the Internet of things,” as these have developed and diffused into more or less every corner of our lives in the (so-called) developed countries. DME can be characterized as demotic—of the people—in three important ways. One, in contrast with specialist domains such as Information and Computing Ethics (ICE), it is intended as an ethics for the rest of us—namely, all of us who use digital media technologies in our everyday lives. Two, these manifold contexts of use dramatically expand the range of ethical issues computing technologies evoke, well beyond the comparatively narrow circle of issues confronting professionals working in ICE. Three, while drawing on the expertise of philosophers and applied ethics, DME likewise relies on the ethical insights and sensibilities of additional communities, including (a), the multiple communities of those whose technical expertise comes into play in the design, development, and deployment of information and communication technology (ICT); and (b), the people and communities who use digital media in their everyday lives. DME further employs both ancient ethical philosophies, such as virtue ethics, and modern frameworks of utilitarianism and deontology, as well as feminist ethics and ethics of care: DME may also take, for example, Confucian and Buddhist approaches, as well as norms and customs from relevant indigenous traditions where appropriate. The global distribution and interconnection of these devices means, finally, that DME must also take on board often profound differences between basic ethical norms, practices, and related assumptions as these shift from culture to culture. What counts as “privacy” or “pornography,” to begin with, varies widely—as do the more fundamental assumptions regarding the nature of the person that we take up as a moral agent and patient, rights-holder, and so on. Of first importance here is how far we emphasize the more individual vis-à-vis the more relational dimensions of selfhood—with the further complication that these emphases appear to be changing locally and globally. Nonetheless, DME can now map out clear approaches to early concerns with privacy, copyright, and pornography that help establish a relatively stable and accepted set of ethical responses and practices. By comparison, violent content (e.g., in games) and violent behavior (cyber-bullying, hate speech) are less well resolved. Nonetheless, as with the somewhat more recent issues of online friendship and citizen journalism, an emerging body of literature and analysis points to initial guidelines and resolutions that may become relatively stable. Such resolutions must be pluralistic, allowing for diverse application and interpretations in different cultural settings, so as to preserve and foster cultural identity and difference. Of course, still more recent issues and challenges are in the earliest stages of analysis and efforts at forging resolutions. Primary issues include “death online” (including suicide web-sites and online memorial sites, evoking questions of censorship, the right to be forgotten, and so on); “Big Data” issues such as pre-emptive policing and “ethical hacking” as counter-responses; and autonomous vehicles and robots, ranging from Lethal Autonomous Weapons to carebots and sexbots. Clearly, not every ethical issue will be quickly or easily resolved. But the emergence of relatively stable and widespread resolutions to the early challenges of privacy, copyright, and pornography, coupled with developing analyses and emerging resolutions vis-à-vis more recent topics, can ground cautious optimism that, in the long run, DME will be able to take up the ethical challenges of digital media in ways reasonably accessible and applicable for the rest of us.