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Ethical Issues in Computer-Mediated Communication





                                               Ifedayo Akinwalere


                                               November 28, 2017





                          INTRODUCTION

Communication technologies do not exist in a vacuum. Instead, they stand in a large variety of relations with their surroundings and contexts. Being man made, technologies have a clear link with human society in various ways. It may seem quite surprising to hear that technology is man-made, but this refers to the enterprise of conducting its product:-technology knowledge. It may be true that knowledge exists “out there” and will continue to do so, but in order for that knowledge to become useful and relatable to human beings, some kinds of methods are needed.  This relation of communication technology with the human world has given rise to a set of problems and agenda, and chief among these agenda are the normative aspects of the relation. Ethical problems have abounded with regard to the use of technology. This is so because science and technology are very powerful tools, and as such, they have a great impact on our values and on the question of what should or should not be done with regard to the processes or products of science and technology and for what reasons. Ethical deliberation on technologies and their close relationship with the human world is thus essential in this day and age when advances in these fields are being made at a very rapid pace.
Ethics: Omoregbe (1993) cited in Onabajo (2002) defined ethics as the  fundamental principles of morality where some actions are regarded as good or bad; right or wrong; ethical or unethical and the various criteria for making such judgements. Communication offers an identity for all human being, communication being the most important skill that can be possessed by humans and the indispensable fact of human togetherness. It is the branch of moral philosophy that is centred on how we ought to live our lives, what things we ought to value, and what practical decisions we ought to make. In communication, ethics work to enhance credibility, improve the decision-making process and allow for trust between the two parties. Ethics provide the groundwork for right and wrong, allowing two parties to communicate with a basic understanding of what is expected.
Information ethics:  Information ethics has been defined as "the branch of ethics that focuses on the relationship between the creation, organization, dissemination, and use of information, and the ethical standards and moral codes governing human conduct in society.
In communication, ethics work to enhance credibility, improve the decision-making process and allow for trust between the two parties. Ethics provide the groundwork for right and wrong, allowing two parties to communicate with a basic understanding of what is expected. Ethical communication is fundamental to responsible thinking, decision making, and the development of relationships and communities within and across contexts, cultures, channels, and media.
Communication ethics enhances human worth and dignity by fostering truthfulness, fairness, responsibility, personal integrity, and respect for self and others. We believe that unethical communication threatens the quality of all communication and consequently the well being of individuals and the society in which we live.
The purpose of ethics is to avoid doing harm and this is vital in communication because it strive to build trust. This allows both parties to define what is acceptable to allow for better relations between individuals and different departments, in the case of organizations. The same level and understanding of ethics applies to all forms of communication, including verbal, written and digital.
Communication ethics is the notion that an individual's or group's behaviour are governed by their morals which in turn affects communication. Generally speaking communication ethics deals with the moral good present in any form of human communication. This includes interpersonal communication, group communication, mass mediated communication, and digital communication. Communication   being   the   most   significant   skill humans each possess and the essential fact of human collectivity (McQuail 2000).
Communication ethics is not only about the individual, but is of great relevance to businesses, corporations, and professional entities. A business with unethical communication practices is not as effective as one with ethical communication practices. For example, a business with unethical communication practices may withhold evidence that it is harming the environment or breaking a law through a lack of transparence; while a business with ethical communication practices will immediately issue a press release to the affected parties. In this example, transparency makes the business more effective because it notifies its clients, prospective or established, providers/suppliers, or other affiliates of the potential environmental hazard or law violation. In other words, in this example, transparency will encourage trust and good faith, that the effective business will not conceal what is in the interest of its audience.
Communication enhances human worth and dignity by fostering truthfulness, fairness, responsibility, personal integrity, and respect for self and others. It is undisputable, that unethical communication threatens the quality of all communication and consequently the well being of individuals and the society in which we live.
ETHICAL ISSUES IN COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATION
The  world’s  most  powerful communication  technology  is  more  than  significant; it  is  defining  of  a  new global  civilization,  potentially linking   all   people   through   the   Internet. The use and spread of information technologies has been revolutionized and aided with the emergence and development of computer technologies. Electronic networks have allowed exchange of information but it has also come with new challenges. Rights and responsibilities in the way available information is used have given rise to some ethical dilemmas. Ethical dilemmas greatly affect our society and virtually all human endeavours.



Some of the ethical dilemmas are explained below:
Computer Crime

Computer crimes are illegal activities performed using a computer and they include theft, financial fraud, embezzlement, online harassment, virus infection and sabotage. Computer crimes affect all businesses that rely on the Internet to operate. A research report in 2000 by the FBI showed that out of all the business respondents, 85 percent had been victims of computer crime. These crimes compromise businesses and put them at a disadvantage; for example, the same FBI report shows that $265 million was lost to computer crime in 2000. Small businesses suffer more crimes because they cannot afford to implement security measures to stop the crimes, unlike the big companies. Small businesses are also reluctant to put in security measures because they believe that hackers will mainly target big companies.
Hacking is breaking into computer systems for unauthorized purposes, which may be either malicious or non-malicious. Hacking may involve, for example, snooping around on someone’s personal computer through remote access, intentionally modifying or destroying files to which one has not been granted access, releasing computer viruses, stealing passwords or files, exposing personal information, and stealing electronic money Forester and Morrison, 1994) and (Baase, 1997) Students and staff members at both distance centre and conventional universities may engage in hacking for a variety of reasons. They may simply be unaware that they are breaking into a computer system, they may just be curious, they may be out to harm someone, they may want to benefit themselves, or they may have entirely different reasons. Malicious hacking is clearly morally Daily post (2011).
Nigeria records about N127b loss annually to Cyber Crime, the Senator representing Oyo North Senatorial District, Dr. Abdulfatai Buhari disclosed this during an annual lecture entitled ‘Legislative Commitment and Cyber Crime’, at the Faculty of Law, Lead City University, Ibadan. Buhari said the figure would continue to grow unless the National Assembly acted fast and intensified its efforts in preventing the unwholesome act. He declared that the figure represented 0.8% of the country’s GDP. Quoting a report from the NSA office, Buhari said “Nigeria has been ranked third in global internet crimes, coming after United States of America and United Kingdom respectively. “In the year 2015, the Information Security Society of Nigeria (ISSAN) revealed that 25% of the cybercrimes in Nigeria are unresolved and that 7.5% of the world’s hackers are Nigerians. “In 2014 alone, EFCC reported that customers in Nigeria lost about 6 billion naira to cyber criminals, while NDIC (2015) showed a 183% increase on the e-payment platform in Nigerian banks. “In a similar development, the CBN (2015) report showed that 70% of attempted or successful fraud/forgery cases in Nigeria banking system were perpetrated via the electronic channels Daily post (2011).
Intellectual Property
Intellectual property is the creation of a business and includes the name, designs, inventions, images and symbols that a company uses. The success of a business largely depends on its assets. Information technology has enabled other businesses or companies to imitate or copy ideas from others and use it as their own. Some of these innovations are from the small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), but their efforts may not be fully utilized and they do not gain any financial benefits. This is because their inventions are unprotected and are normally taken by big companies who can afford to quickly commercialize the service or product. To avoid this, the SMEs should patent their innovations, thus, preventing competitors from imitating or copying their products.
Software Piracy
Piracy is the illegal copying of software, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Software piracy violates copyright agreements. In 2002, 39 percent of business application software were pirated in the U.S. Software piracy can be costly, especially for corporations as it leads to significant losses. In 2002 alone, the software industry in the U.S. lost a total of $13 billion. There may be arguments that individual piracy may not be unethical as it leads to computer literacy and may even lead to future purchase of the software. However, the dilemma may come in when piracy is done on a large scale, as this will lead to serious losses for software manufacturers, especially those who are small-scale producers. Big companies like Microsoft can hardly feel the loss as they have a way to protect their software but small-scale businesses would greatly be affected as they are likely to incur big losses, which might eventually lead to the closure of the business. Small business firms' incentive to continue creating new software is also reduced as they fear their works would be pirated.
Job Displacement
The use of information technology might require less deployment of man power and this has created ethical dilemmas by forcing some companies to reduce their workforce. Other companies give their employees more roles than required, thus, increasing work pressure. Forcing employees out of their jobs or giving them more work without added benefits is unethical. Those who have lost their jobs should be compensated, but this is difficult for most small-scale businesses because they lack sufficient resources and funds to do so.
Technological unemployment is the loss of jobs caused by technological change. A contemporary example of technological unemployment is the displacement of retail cashiers by self-service tills. For example, TELL and THE NEWS magazines have laid off more than 70 per cent of the workforce in the recent time due the crave for online publishing that requires few hands.
Privacy Rights
As a general rule, communicator should respect the privacy of individuals and their families unless it affects the public interest. Information on the private life of an individual or his family should only be published if it impinges on public interest. Surveillance equipment, key cards, and the increased monitoring of phone and Internet use in the workplace with communication technology continue to raise issues of employee privacy. This generates the need for personnel policies that justify the omnipresent watchfulness of management, as well as methodologies to monitor and enforce those policies. While such measures strive to ensure that time and resources are used appropriately, employees may interpret these safeguards as distrust, or feel that everything they do is being watched.
Reduced Cultural Values:
Talking about cultures also implies another important dimension, for cultures are not the same all over the world. Of course, one can talk about the universal traits of human beings. When one focuses on culture as what distinguishes the human world, one cannot fail to find a tremendous variety of cultures, many of which are very different from one another hence, ethical deliberation on information technology and its role in the human world.
Cultural values are values that culturally trained individuals are expected to uphold in an organized society and that define what has been called cultural integrity. They are values that directly bear on the manner in which work is performed and interaction takes place, and the attitudes and interaction that make a man. Cultural values include values such as honesty, objectivity, fairness, trust, respect, openness, association, and responsibility.
Nigeria is a multi-ethnic society with different cultural groups, yet as a nation, the people have some  shared  beliefs,  common  values,  traditions,  world  views,  lifestyles,  code  of  dressing,  eating, greeting etc. It is on  the basis  of these common cultural values  that despite  the diverse,  individual, cultural or ethnic groups that exist,  the term ‘Nigerian culture’  is used here in the same vein as people talk of western culture,  though there are many nations and cultures that exist in the western world.
Ohiagu, P. O. (2010) carried out a study on Indigenous Societies and Cultural Globalization in the 21st Century. She discovered that the Internet, Global System of Mobile Telecommunication (GSM), and Satellite Communication (cable TV networks) are perhaps the most influential of all Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in modern digital society. The outcome of the study is that the impact of ICTs on the Nigerian people has both a positive and a negative thrust. While these technologies have the potential of eroding local cultures even to the point of threatening their extinction, yet they equally provide a podium for global societies and cultures (Nigerian people and culture inclusive) to meet and interact. The resultant globalization of world cultures or global culture, of course, is not without inherent problems of hierarchy, domination by the stronger kingdoms and subservience of the weaker kingdoms, etc. After all, when Marshall McLuhan prophesied that the world was quickly turning into a global village, he did not suggest or insinuate the emergence of a village without village heads, elders, chiefs, titled men and influential few. So the emerging global village orchestrated by ICTs is not a village constituted of equals. The information and communication powerful nations have accordingly taken the positions of village heads, elders, chiefs, titled men and influential few as the case may be. She added that although there are critical negative pressures exerted by ICTs on the Nigerian society, the effect of these technologies on the people's lifestyles is mainly positive oriented. This study submits that the way forward is not in limiting the people's focus on these noxious dimensions of globalization but in concentrating on its potentials. The research design used was survey which allowed issues to be observed directly from human specimens. Consequently, the above conclusions were drawn from the findings extracted from real life experiences rather than on assumptions or theoretical ideas. The research findings revealed that the Information and Communication Technologies have a double edged impact on the Nigerian people and culture. On one hand, there is the detrimental effect of the local cultures being overshadowed by the more dominant or overriding cultures of the western society perhaps leading to the disappearance of some traditional values. On the other hand, these technologies have yielded a platform or stage upon which the Nigerian scripts are acted out or showcased globally as in a theatre room. The technologies, despite their harmful potentials, thus empower the Nigerian society to encounter and be encountered by other societies and cultures and thus be developed and enriched.
A society that strongly relies on computer-mediated communication cannot serve as proper vehicles for the transmission of cultural values, and for the transmission of cultural values in general. A number of authors have argued that transmission of cultural values requires real-world settings in which people engage in face-to-face interaction. This, indeed, seems to be the feeling of many ideal families throughout the world. However, computer mediated communication has reduced the bond and ties that people enjoy through face to face communication. Based on the above argument, it is clear that the principles of what is right  or wrong may not remain the same in this era of computer-mediated communication.
Children and Minors Rights Violated
A journalist should not identify, either by name or picture, or interview children under the age of 16 who are involved in cases concerning sexual offences, crimes and rituals or witchcraft either as victims, witnesses or defendants (Akinwalere, 2016).
Many people who participate in using communication technology are not trained communicator. Day in day out, audience Facebook and other social media are being bombarded with pictures of under-aged children who involved in one crime or the other. A trained communicator should not identify, either by name or picture, or interview children under the age of 16 who are involved in cases concerning sexual offences, crimes and rituals or witchcraft either as victims, witnesses or defendants.
Over the past twenty years the Internet has become an integral part of our lives. Human beings have eagerly embraced its potential for communication, entertainment and information seeking. For many of today’s children, the Internet, mobile phones and other technologies are a constant and familiar presence. For them, the distinction between online and offline has increasingly become meaningless, and they move seamlessly between both environments. An increasing number of children can scarcely imagine life without a social networking profile; videos and photographs shared online during real time and online gaming. Indeed, young people are at the vanguard of technological change. Their coming-of-age in this era of exponential innovation has widened the generational divide between them and their parents, their teachers and other care givers. This gap, while becoming less stark in industrialized countries, is wider in lower-income countries where caregivers arguably have fewer opportunities to access information and communication technology. But the situation is changing rapidly. There is no doubt that the Internet yields numerous opportunities and benefits for children in terms of its impact on their educational attainment and social inclusion.
However, it has also exposed children to dangers that defy age, geographic location and other boundaries that are more clearly delineated in the real world. This has resulted in risks to children and young people of having abusive images of them shared on the Internet; of being groomed or lured into sexual conversations or exploitation by adult offenders; of being bullied or harassed online (UNICEF, 2011).
The Transfer of Values in Computer-Mediated Education
The cultural transmission of values has often been identified as one of the major functions of universities (Clark, 1983; Croy, 1998) cited in Brey (2006). Higher institution is a veritable platform for youth socialization process. For most students, the university functions as a social platform, a miniature society in which they learn to function as one of its members. It is a place where many students learn to live a life for themselves, without constant or direct supervision by their parents and guardians and thus to become independent citizens. In the process of becoming this autonomous citizen, students adopt new cultural values in interactions with their teachers, their peers, and other members of the university community. One set of values that is acquired by students in universities is particularly important, since their transmission is considered to be a central function of university education, and universities pride themselves with them. These are academic values.
Academic values are values that academically trained individuals are expected to uphold in academic settings and in professional life, and that define what has been called academic integrity). They are values that directly bear on the manner in which academic work is performed, the manner in which professional interaction takes place, and the attitudes that are taken to professional work and professional interaction. Academic values include values such as honesty, objectivity, fairness, trust, collegiality, respect, accuracy, thoroughness, independence, openness, curiosity and responsibility. A university training, then, is not just about learning knowledge and skills in a certain discipline, it is also about acquiring academic values so as to acquire an academic “mindset,” a set of attitudes and practices in which these values are brought to life.
A University that strongly rely on computer-mediated education cannot serve as proper vehicles for the transmission of academic values, and for the transmission of cultural values in general. A number of authors have argued that a profound learning experience, which includes the transmission of academic values, requires real-world settings in which people engage in face-to-face interaction. This, indeed, seems to be the feeling of many educators throughout the world. For example, the New York Times has reported that “the American Federation of Teachers. The teacher was reported to have criticised distance learning education and stated that ‘All our experience as educators tells us that teaching and learning in the shared human spaces of a campus are essential to the undergraduate experience’  ( Dreyfus 2001, 32) cited in (Brey, 2006). Nancy Dye, president of Oberlin College in the United Stages, has claimed that “learning is a deeply social process that requires time and face-to-face contact. That means professors interacting with students.” And Bernard Tan, student dean of the National University of Singapore has argued that:
Interaction via the internet and video conferencing cannot replace the face-to-face interaction which must be at the core of our teaching programmes”. He emphasizes in particular that the transmission of “the values which will underpin our students’ working lives and their interaction with their fellow citizens … cannot be achieved without face-to-face interaction which is unmediated by high technology.” (Tan, 1999, unpaginated) cited in Brey (2006).
 
Philosopher Hubert Dreyfus has presented an extensive argument against distance education as a means for transferring values. He argues that education centrally involves the transmission of skills and a process by which educators foster commitments in their students and stimulate them to develop strong identities. He then argued that such skills, commitments and identities cannot adequately be transferred in distance education since they require bodily presence and localized interactions between students and teachers. This requires a relation of apprenticeship, which according to Dreyfus cannot be attained on-line, he added that:
Only by working closely with students in a shared situation in the real world can teachers with strong identities ready to take risks to preserve their commitments pass on their passion and skill so their students can turn information into knowledge and practical wisdom.
It is not just face-to-face interaction and apprenticeship that have been argued to be missing elements that prevent an adequate transfer of cultural values in distance education. What has also been argued to be an essential ingredient is the presence of a genuine academic community in which students are embedded (Eaton, 2000) for example, is worried that the dispersion of faculty and students in distance education may lead to a loss of “collegiality and shared governance,” which she considers a core academic value. Prosser and Ward (2000) have argued that the transfer of practical wisdom in education requires communities with interpersonal connectivity among its members. Yet, they argue, virtual communities of the kind found in distance education are too impoverished to function as genuine communities, because of their relative anonymity, the difficulty of developing genuine commitments to things or people in the virtual environment, and the risk of an overload of trivial information in virtual environments.
Computer-Mediated Education and Academic Freedom
Academic freedom has always been described one of the most central values in higher education. Academic freedom is a special type of intellectual freedom, which is the freedom to use one’s intellect in a way of one’s own choosing, and to both hold, receive and disseminate ideas without restraint. The American Library Association defines it as “the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction” and holds that intellectual freedom “provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question cause or movement may be explored.”
 Intellectual freedom has often been defended as a core Western value, as a necessary prerequisite for democracy and cultural progress (Morse, 2001).
Academic freedom is intellectual freedom as it exists within the academy. It is the free pursuit of knowledge by scholars and students. Clark, in an important study of the higher education system, claims that academic freedom involves freedom of research, freedom of teaching, and freedom of learning. As he points out, the liberties of academic freedom are sought at various levels: students seek freedom to learn what they want, scholars seek freedoms in teaching and research within their department, departmental groups seek self-determination within the university, and the university seeks autonomy from the state and from outside groups. Basic to this push for liberties is, according to Clark, “the desire for individual self-expression”. Teachers want to teach to be able to say what they please without restraint or fear of retribution. Those who learn want to learn in a way that helps realize their life plan: they want be able to choose what they learn, how they learn it, and at what pace they learn it.
In discussing academic freedom and information technology, some authors have argued that information technology enhances academic freedom for students by offering them more choice, for instance by making a university education available through e-learning for students (e.g. employed persons or disabled persons) who are unable to physically attend classes. More generally, also, authors have been emphasizing the greater informational freedom that results from the Internet as an education medium, as it enhances opportunities for academic communication, information retrieval and teaching.
However, many authors also identify challenges to academic freedom that may arise from the use of computers and the Internet in education. A major challenge that has been discussed is the challenge of content selection with resulting limitations on free Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q and A of the American Library Association at Academic freedom means, amongst others, free access to information and freedom of speech for both students and faculty. When speech or information is carried by a digital medium, however, limitations may be imposed quite easily: an administrator, system operator or list moderator may block certain types of messages, delete certain webpages or block certain e-mail addresses in a matter of seconds. Thus, both students and faculty are in a dependent position concerning their ability to acquire information and voice opinions via computer networks.
Regarding free access to information, universities sometimes place filters on their Internet traffic that effectively block access to certain web sites or to bulletin boards or messages that contain certain types of content (Rosenberg, 2001). Filtering or blocking may be done for efficiency reasons, for instance because it is found that certain sites, such as adult sites, generate a large amount of web traffic that causes net congestion.
However, it may also be done as a form of censorship, to prevent users from having access to certain types of information that are considered immoral or illegal or otherwise undesirable. For instance, access may be blocked to sites with adult content, with racist or fascist content, or with illegal software available for download. Though such efforts are understandable, it may be questioned if such content control can be reconciled with the demands of academic freedom. Moreover, the use of filtering software has a reported disadvantage, which is that it invariably filters too much. Filters usually block access to messages based on the occurrence in them of certain key words. This ignores context, however, and so often leads to ‘suitable’ content being blocked. For instance, sites or messages may be blocked that study pornography rather than containing it, or challenge racism instead of promoting it.
Regarding free speech, universities may try to exercise control over the types of speech that are exercised by students and staff over the university network. They may, for example, have policies against certain types of speech that are considered undesirable, may remove or block messages that do not adhere to such policies. For example, the University of California, San Diego imposed a speech code in 1995 that stated: “The use of University resources such as electronic mail to disparage individuals or groups on the basis of gender, race, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or religion, is strictly prohibited and violates University policy,”(Baase, 1997, 212). Universities may also monitor speech by eavesdropping on on-line communications and accessing student and faculty files on university servers.
None of these possibilities are necessarily advisable, however. The dictates of academic freedom and freedom of expression necessitate universities to be very cautious about filtering, blocking or removing electronic information or messages, monitoring computer systems and electronic communications of students and staff, or proposing speech codes for electronic communications. If any such actions are to be taken at all, they should respect as well as possible academic and intellectual freedom as well as personal privacy. While many forms of content control at universities probably result from efforts to protect individuals and groups from harassment and libel and foster asecure academic environment, there is nevertheless a serious risk that academic freedom and free speech are limited in the process. The ability to voice unpleasant and dissenting opinions has always been central to academic freedom and to freedom of speech, and a necessary prerequisite for social and intellectual criticism. When student and faculty fear that their electronically communicated views and opinions may be reprimanded or blocked, or worry that their communication may be (anonymously) monitored by parties who are in a position of power relative to them, free speech may be stifled and academic freedom may be hurt as a result. A serious and continuous effort is needed, therefore, to balance any the need to protect individuals and groups from harassment against the need to promote free speech and academic freedom.
Computers and Distance Learning Affect Equality in Education
Positively, distance education has been argued to be an equalizer by making academic education more accessible. Most importantly, it has been claimed that distance education may shatter geographical barriers to educational access and provide educational opportunities to people who may otherwise have  not been in a position to enter the higher education system: people trapped by geographic isolation, economically disadvantaged people, people with health problems or handicaps, people who suffer discrimination, and people with jobs who are unable to relocate to a city with a university (Daniel, 1996 and Jones, 1997). More generally, computer networks have been argued to stimulate equal treatment and equal opportunity within schools because computerized interactions have been claimed to be less threatening and discrimination to be less likely because differences are less visible online (it is likely that racial and sexual inequalities may persist in distance education groups. In Europe, some scholars have argued that strong teacher awareness of such inequalities remains a necessity. Negatively, it has been argued, distance education, and more generally the extensive reliance on computers in teaching, creates new hurdles for certain groups that may induce new inequalities. This has been the main conclusion of what is currently the most quoted study on equality in distance education, The Virtual University and Educational Opportunity (Gladieux and Swail, 1999a) cited in Brey, P. (2006), a study published by the College Board of the United States. Based on empirical data, the authors argue that distance education does not seem to help people low on the socioeconomic scale who have traditionally been underrepresented in higher education (minorities and the economically less advantaged), and in fact seems to create new obstacles for them. Therefore, distance education may work to deepen the divide between educational haves and have-nots.
The authors identify two kinds of obstacles for socioeconomically disadvantaged groups in distance education. First, members of these groups often do not have access to computers and online services at home. And if they do have access at home, or if they make use of computers at a local service point, the quality of the hardware and software is often lacking, resulting in technological problems like equipment malfunctioning.
Internet Congestion and Delay
 It is possible that technical difficulties can befall anyone in cyberspace, and usually do at one time or another and this affect those who have the least ability to pay. Observation from the post JAMB and Joint Admission Matriculation Board examination into higher institutions in Nigeria show that prospective university students from underprivileged background have much less experience working with computers, both in their pre-university education and at home. Such disparities could preclude significant numbers of students from participating in the effective university that rely heavily on communication technology to conduct its activities.
The satellite campus and distance learning system with communication technology may widen opportunities for some, but not by and large for those at the low end of the socio-economic scale, who have traditionally been underrepresented in higher education. Virtual space is infinite, but it does not promise universality or equity, nor is it appropriate for many students whose experience with technology is limited - and who might benefit far more from traditional delivery systems.
ICT Creates Inequality in Education Gender, Rich and Poor
 It is claimed that the Internet may become a new engine of inequality by reshaping the global market for higher education in a way that may deepen the divide between educational haves and have-nots. digital divide between the ‘information-rich’ and the ‘information poor’ frustrates the promise of distance education being an equalizer, and in fact only seems to worsen existing divides in higher education.
Although there does not currently seem to be a significant gender gap in higher education (women enter universities in about the same numbers as men), some authors worry that the extensive use of computers and the Internet in schools and universities may create a new gender gap. Studies have indeed shown that a digital divide exists between men and women; though this divide is perhaps less profound than the digital divides that exist between groups with different economic status, race, and ethnicity (Cooper and Weaver, 2003). Access is probably not the issue. Sulaiman et al. (2002) found no difference between the level of availability of computers, Internet access and the rate of usage of computers both at home and at the workplace between distance education learners according to gender.
However, there may well be a gender gap in knowledge of and attitudes to information technology. Janssen Reinen and Plomp (1997) have found such a gap, claiming: “Females know less about information technology, enjoy using the computer less than male students, and perceive more problems with software.”  This suggests that women may have a disadvantage to men in distance education settings. Such disadvantages need to be addressed in the virtual university, as well as gender differences in the use of information technology, that have been reported in a number of studies.
Vale and Leder (2004), for example, have found that girls in middle schools experienced the use of computers in mathematics lessons much less favorably than boys. Herring (1996) found that male users of computer-mediated communication tended toward “more adversarial behaviour” while women tended to “more attenuated and supportive behaviours” and concluded that these behaviours correspond to two value systems, “One considers individual freedom to be the highest good, and the other idealizes harmonious interpersonal interaction.” And in a comprehensive study, Cooper and Weaver (2003) report numerous findings that girls and young women are at a serious disadvantage in their ability to learn about and profit from information technology in education.
Additional inequalities may arise because of linguistic and cultural hurdles. An initiative is now underway for a Virtual European University, supported by institutes of higher learning from different European Union member states that would provide college-level instruction for a multicultural and multilingual student population. This kind of university would inevitably bring such hurdles along.
In a study of cultural and linguistic diversity in virtual instruction in Europe, Vanden Branden and Lambert (1999) conclude that “language and other aspects that are typically considered as culture bound, such as (differences in) prior knowledge, cultural subjects, attitudes towards culturally embedded topics, discussion and learning styles, and so forth, remain barriers to transnational educational networks.’’
 The authors claim that cultural and language problems in transnational education are often underestimated and that it is moreover difficult to find adequate solutions for them even if they are recognized (Bowers, 1988). Positively, they claim that cultural diversity can also be very stimulating to students, and should perhaps be capitalized on more. Linguistic diversity, however, is mostly just a problem, which as the authors argue perhaps cannot be solved, but can only be made more manageable through the development of language management policies.
To conclude, serious challenges are raised for equality and diversity in the virtual university. These include both inequalities that affect socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, gender inequalities, and equality issues that relate to cultural and linguistic diversity. If computer-mediated education is to gain further prominence, universities will have to address these challenges. They can provide special facilities, for example, for socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. They should also put in special effort to address attitudes to computers of female students and their different learning styles, for instance through the choice of software and educational method in the use of computers in the classroom. Care must be taken to use teaching methods and tools that are sensitive to gender differences in the use of information technology and that do not contain gender biases. Universities should be cautious in the realization of computer-mediated transnational educational programs, and make sure that if these are realized, adequate language management policies are in place.
Ethical Student and Staff Behaviour in Computer-Mediated Education
The use of computer systems in computer-mediated education changes the settings in which moral values function, for students and staff members. new moral challenges and new possibilities for immoral behaviour for students and staff that may arise with the use of information technology in higher education. these moral challenges arise in part because electronic environments afford new types of actions that may require new moral codes, such as copying software and hacking. Yet, they also arise in part because certain types of immoral actions, such as plagiarism and invasions of privacy, are easier to perform in electronic settings, as well as harder to detect or control. What follows are six types of morally questionable behaviour that depend on the use of computers and computer networks in (higher) education, followed by a general discussion of them.
Digital Plagiarism
Plagiarism has always existed in education, including higher education, where it is one of the major forms of academic dishonesty. Assignments handed in by students may turn out to be copied from fellow students or to be taken over, in part or in whole, from existing published works. In a way, computers and the Internet only add to the means that students have at their disposal to commit plagiarism.
As Austin and Brown have argued, plagiarism has become easier for students in two ways: “word processing programs allow students to easily “cut and paste” information from the Internet or other electronic media to develop a paper that appears to be original work” and “students’ use of Internet information that may be unavailable in traditional sources makes documenting academic dishonesty more difficult to faculty,” (1999, 21; Hinman, 2002). Particularly worrisome, as they point out, is the existence of “term paper mills,” which offer pre-written term papers to students on a range of topics, and many of which also offer to write papers specifically for students for a fee.
Breaking Copyright and Software Theft
It is well known that the illegal copying of copyrighted media (texts, music works, movies and software programs) is widespread throughout society. Moreover, many people who engage in such activity do not consider themselves to be doing something that is patently immoral. This is certainly true for college students. Cohen and Cornwell (1989) and Glass and Wood (1996), for example, found that a large majority of college students do not perceive the illegal copying of software as unethical.
This attitude of students seems to match developments in the current information age, in which the Internet increasingly functions as the most important information medium that people use. Hinman (2002) has argued that the very structure of the Internet undermines the notion of private intellectual property on theweb: The inner dynamic of the Web moves us increasingly toward a much more communal notion of property. As he explains, the Web stimulates copying because the very nature of browser technology necessitates making copies, because perfect copies can be made at virtually no cost, and because making digital copies does not involve physical theft from the person who owns the original. It may be added to this that many information sources on the Web are not obviously copyrighted, and many even lack an identifiable author (Kolko, 2002).  Lipinski and Britz (1999) argued, moreover, that digital copying can often be morally, if not legally, defended because of the fact that access to information is a critical need in an age of information that may in some cases override proprietary rights.
Hence, the traditional legal paradigm of intellectual property is increasingly challenged by a new paradigm that emphasizes unrestrained access to, and use of, information. It is difficult to find an adequate moral compass to navigate the new landscape, not only for students, but for staff as well. Moral and legal confusion may moreover also result from the vagueness of “fair use” provisions in copyright law, that do not clearly state when copying for personal use or display in classroom settings is permitted, and from the existence of corporate licenses at universities, or departments therein, that may permit students to freely use or copy media that they do not own themselves.
Improper Use of Computer Resources
Hacking is the use of computer resources to which one is not supposed to have access. However, students and staff may also have authorized access to computer resources owned by the university, but then go on to use these resources improperly. For example, students may use their student account to run their own Internet business, contrary to the university’s policies. Students may open up a popular website or service that generates loads of traffic that incapacitates the university’s server, e.g., peer to peer downloads of MP3 files. Staff members may use the university’s server or computer systems to download or view or store content that is either illegal or against the university’s policies (e.g., racist or fascist materials or pornography). Members of the academic community may also spread computer viruses or worms.
Harassment and Hate Speech
In universities, there may be various electronic means of communicating messages to other members of the academic community, as well as to persons outside the university: e-mail, electronic bulletin boards, IRC (the exchange of short one-on-one messages without a significant time lag), collaborative virtual environments and webpages constitute some of the most important ones. As in face-to-face communication, these computer-mediated forms of communication can be used to send threatening, obscene, inflammatory or harassing messages. These may include discriminatory messages, used to disparage individuals or groups based on gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, age, or disability. Such messages are generally not considered to be acceptable in an academic setting, as educators strive to ensure that the classroom, if not the campus at large, functions as a safe, nonthreatening environment for students as well as for staff. In this, the same principles apply for virtual classrooms and campuses as for their physical counterparts ( Ferganchick-Neufang, 1998).
Moreover, in curbing harassing and obscene messages, educators will simultaneously have to make sure that they are not unduly limiting free speech, speech on computer systems is often treated differently from other forms of speech, and there is a tendency for less tolerance for offensive talk that takes place online. If this is true, then extra care must be taken to ensure that student discussion in the virtual classroom can take place as freely as student discussion in the physical classroom. It would be a loss if students would be more hesitant to voice their opinions because they are using an electronic medium.
A feature of computer-mediated communication that deserves special mention is the ease by which anonymous or pseudonymous messages can be sent, for example through anonymous remailer services. Baase (1997, 214-5) points out that anonymous messages posted over the Internet can have good and bad uses. Sheclaims that anonymity provides protection for victims of violence and abuse and users of illegal drugs who seek counseling and advice and for whistleblowers who wish to report on unethical or illegal activity in their organization without fear of retribution.
 Breaches of Informational Privacy and Confidentiality
Here is another major ethical limitation in using communication technology to communicate in the world all over. By this, we simply mean burrowing/prying into the private social life of individuals to get information. It may include interception of personal mails or correspondence, taking of photograph of a deformed baby in a hospital ward without seeking first the parents consent, peeking (peeping) in another’s window, seeking of details about the medical histories of public officials from their physicians (Akinwalere, 2016).
Privacy is generally considered to be an individual right in Western countries, and many nations have privacy laws (or data protection laws, as they are sometimes called in Europe). Privacy has been defined as control over information about oneself and over exposure of oneself to (Schoeman, 1984, Brey, 2005). It is nowadays generally recognized that new technologies, and particularly information and communication technologies, raise new privacy issues, for example concerning electronic databases and online privacy (e.g., Cate, 1997; Agre and Rotenberg, 1998). Many of these new privacy issues can be expected to apply to the use of universities that make a lot of use of online instruction and communication. In such universities, many important activities of members of the university can in principle be monitored or recorded electronically. This includes not only student administration but also classroom discussion, student-to-student and student-to-faculty e-mail contact, and the online behaviour of students in general. The walls of classrooms and offices at such a university are much more permeable than those of classical universities, making eavesdropping much easier, and it happens much more frequently that the things that are said and done in them are recorded so as to be available for later scrutiny, or can be copied for distribution. It will be clear from this list that computer-mediated education makes possible many new types of unethical behaviour by staff, students and administrators. Clearly, universities need policies to address such behavior. But part of the solution may be technological.
In a study of privacy in online learning environments, Tu (2002) cited in Brey (2006) argued that class discussions over a connection that is not secure may either inhibit discussion or force students to take risks in disclosing more personal information. He argued in favour of more private interaction environments, which he claims to be “key to increasing interactivity”. As he claims: “A sound learning environment will allow learners to adjust to the ideal levels of privacy and give students more secure and more comfortable environments to increase their social presence to enhance social interaction”. Universities need to consider the design of systems and software that is used to consider whether this technology facilitates or prohibits unethical use. This is largely a matter of systems security: the systems that are used should be designed and arranged so that they protect privacy, make hacking, software theft and improper use difficult. In addition, staff members should be provided with advanced software to detect plagiarism.
As for policies, it is important that universities have widely published acceptable use policies (Flowers and Rakes, 2000) that specify what kinds of use of computer resources are considered improper. Ideally, such policies should also provide reasons for why particular uses are considered improper. There should of course also be policies for the administration of sanctions when abuse occurs. For successful online learning, moreover, it is very important that universities have privacy policies to protect the privacy rights of students and staff and to create secure learning environments in which members of the community interact with each other on a basis of trust.
Ethical Behaviour in the Information Technology in Business
Discussions of moral and ethical behaviour in the information technology field have moved to the forefront of the business world due to the rise of electronic commerce (e-business). Internet technologies have made it much easier for even small companies to gather, assemble and circulate customer information. These new technologies have spawned fears about the proper use of customer data and the protection of individual privacy, especially when it comes to buying and selling such sensitive data. Technology moves at a pace that can easily outrun ethical standards surrounding its use. The effects of technology on work ethics move at a similar pace with employers moving to establish ethical boundaries that seem to infringe on employee privacy rights and restrict communication abilities. These tactics have led to courtroom battles, quick job terminations and complaints filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
Ethics for Data Collectors

Companies that collect data from users should be aware of both the ethical and legal implications involved in handling such data. An example occurred in America after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, when a White Plains, New York, newspaper published a Google map showing the addresses of more than 44,000 registered handgun owners in upstate New York. While such behaviour is not technically illegal, the ethical implications caused significant backlash against the paper's editors and publishers.

Ethics for Data Analysts

Web analysts use digital measurement tools, such as Google Analytics, Omniture, WebTrends and ClickTracks, to track the traffic on their clients' websites and blogs. The Web Analyst's Code of Ethics encourages these professionals to engage with companies that keep their customer data private and protected. The code also encourages companies to give full disclosure of their consumer data usage practices to customers, including if and when they sell that data to third-party vendors.
Ethics for Data Buyers
Some companies purchase data from other sources to determine marketing strategies, sales targets and price discrimination. The health insurance giant Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina began buying data on the spending habits of more than 3 million members of its employer group health plans. If a member makes a purchase at a plus-size clothing store, the insurer could use that data to send him information on weight loss plans. The company could also flag that member as a health risk and raise his premiums.


Ethics for Data Resellers
Because the sale of customer information is so profitable, and so much data is available throughout the Internet, companies such as Verizon, AT&T and Sprint in America have seen additional revenues from data they already own. Smartphone apps, such as FourSquare and Google Places, track a user's movements and supply data for marketers to send customer data on the stores they frequent. Data sellers should be aware of who is purchasing their data and for what purpose.
Monitoring Employee Communications
Technology in the digital age and the accessibility of the Internet allow employees to access personal email accounts and talk to friends and family in a variety of ways. This has led to increased employer monitoring of employee communications during working hours in an effort to maintain employee focus on work tasks. An ethical dilemma arises from employers potentially viewing personal employee information and respecting privacy rights. While many courts across the country continually uphold employer monitoring rights, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse's website states at least one court -- the Superior Court of New Jersey -- has ruled employers may be violating employee privacy rights in viewing personal communications.

Working from Anywhere
Easily portable laptops and smartphones with word processing ability and email make working from any location a simple matter of finding a Wi-Fi connection. The shifting definition of the workplace also affects the ethics behind the standard eight-hour workday. Just because technology allows an employer to access her employees and request work at all times of the day, does not mean that it is the ethical thing to do. Changing the workday into a near 24-hour experience also blurs the ethical lines regarding employee compensation especially hourly employees who must receive pay for every minute spent working.
Using Company Equipment
An employee in possession of company equipment, including a cell phone or personal computer, may treat the equipment as his own personal property because of the mental ownership he develops through exclusive use. Ethical problems arise when an employee chooses to use these pieces of equipment for non-work-related reasons, including searching for a new job or accepting personal calls. An employer must develop a clear policy on using company equipment loaned to an employee for business purposes. This allows an employer to set the ethical standard regarding the use of technology.
Social Networking Websites
Social networking websites can become technological battlegrounds between employees and management personnel. Monitoring employee social networking webpages has become a popular tactic for management and business owners and has blurred the lines as to acceptable workplace conduct and what constitutes lawful termination. According to the Employer Law Report's website, as of February 2011, the National Labour Relations Board in America settled a complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc. for the company's overly restrictive policies regarding blogging, employee posting on social networking sites and terminating employees who spoke badly about the business while using a social networking platform. For example, Sulaiman Aledeh, Broadcaster and presenter with Channel television, was faced with stiff discipline  immediately his employer(Channels television discovered he owned a blog named  “Sulaialedeh Blog’’ in  late 2016 and this eventually led to his exit from the broadcast station early 2017.
Conclusion
Universities should have policies that address these issues so as to foster the transfer of (academic) values in computer-mediated education, academic freedom, equality and diversity, and ethical student and staff behaviour. Some of the issues that have been discussed raise serious questions about the limitations of computer-mediated education, particularly in relation to academic freedom, social equality, academic freedom, and the transfer of academic values. These issues require particular consideration in decisions whether or not to choose for computer-mediated education, and how to choose for it. At the end of each section, tentative conclusions were done regarding the kinds of policies that are needed to address the issues at hand.
To conclude, the study points to several areas where more research is needed. First, more research is needed on the nature of academic values and their transfer in higher education, the importance of face-to-face interactions, apprenticeship and physical communities in the transfer of academic and social values in higher education, and the possibility of such value transfer in distance education settings. More research is also needed on the positive and negative effects of computer-mediated education on the participation of socioeconomically disadvantaged groups and women. More research is needed, finally, on ethical issues in online educational settings, on the dynamics of transgressions and conflicts in such settings, and on the functioning of policies that address student and staff behavior in such settings.
RECOMMENDATION
At many (conventional) universities, privacy policies remain limited to student privacy policies that protect student records from being accessed by third parties without authorization. Since many student records are nowadays stored in electronic format, these policies must be supplemented with good system security. Electronic records should be adequately protected so as to avoid unauthorized access to them. Many universities nowadays also have policies that address the electronic posting of grades, which are considered to be privacy-sensitive.
Centre in the United Kingdom, collaborated with a number of actors to undertake this study of Child Exploitation and Online Protection the research explored children’s online behaviour, risks and vulnerability to harm, documenting existing preventive and protective measures to combat their online abuse and exploitation. The study draws on lessons from high- and middle-income countries, viewed through the lens of the dynamic that, given the speed of innovation, other countries may soon experience. It was discovered that a singular approach to combating these crimes is not effective. What is required is a collective effort by policymakers, law enforcement agencies, social workers, teachers, parents and the private sector to systematically protect children. We have also discovered that many children are comfortable navigating the Internet and are able to avoid risks. They may see themselves as protectors of younger children and are themselves agents for change. Children should be allowed to express their views on how to mitigate risks, and they should be listened to and empowered to safely exploit the benefits of the Internet. However, we should not overestimate their ability to protect themselves.
Ultimately, the onus lies with adults to put in place a framework that ensures children equal and equitable access to the Internet, along with a safer online environment. Access to knowledge, participation, leisure and play are fundamental rights of all children, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In today’s real and virtual worlds, it is our collective responsibility to ensure those rights for all children.






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