The Debate on the Moral Responsibilities of Online Service Providers

TitleThe Debate on the Moral Responsibilities of Online Service Providers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsTaddeo, M, Floridi, L
JournalScience & Engineering Ethics
Date Published2016
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number13533452
KeywordsAcquiescence , Centrality , freedom , Human , information , Levels , Moral , MULTICULTURALISM , Online , Privacy , RESPONSIBILITY
AbstractOnline service providers (OSPs)-such as AOL, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter-significantly shape the informational environment (infosphere) and influence users' experiences and interactions within it. There is a general agreement on the centrality of OSPs in information societies, but little consensus about what principles should shape their moral responsibilities and practices. In this article, we analyse the main contributions to the debate on the moral responsibilities of OSPs. By endorsing the method of the levels of abstract (LoAs), we first analyse the moral responsibilities of OSPs in the web (LoA). These concern the management of online information, which includes information filtering, Internet censorship, the circulation of harmful content, and the implementation and fostering of human rights (including privacy). We then consider the moral responsibilities ascribed to OSPs on the web (LoA) and focus on the existing legal regulation of access to users' data. The overall analysis provides an overview of the current state of the debate and highlights two main results. First, topics related to OSPs' public role-especially their gatekeeping function, their corporate social responsibilities, and their role in implementing and fostering human rights-have acquired increasing relevance in the specialised literature. Second, there is a lack of an ethical framework that can (a) define OSPs' responsibilities, and (b) provide the fundamental sharable principles necessary to guide OSPs' conduct within the multicultural and international context in which they operate. This article contributes to the ethical framework necessary to deal with (a) and (b) by endorsing a LoA enabling the definition of the responsibilities of OSPs with respect to the well-being of the infosphere and of the entities inhabiting it (LoA). 
NotesTaddeo, Mariarosaria 1; Email Address: Floridi, Luciano 1; Email Address:; Affiliation: 1: Oxford Internet Institute , University of Oxford , 1, St Giles Oxford OX1 3JS UK; Source Info: Dec2016, Vol. 22 Issue 6, p1575; Subject Term: Online information services industry; Subject Term: Responsibility; Subject Term: Acquiescence (Psychology); Subject Term: Centrality; Subject Term: Information society; Subject Term: Multiculturalism; Author-Supplied Keyword: Freedom of speech; Author-Supplied Keyword: Human rights; Author-Supplied Keyword: Levels of abstraction; Author-Supplied Keyword: Moral responsibilities; Author-Supplied Keyword: Online service providers; Author-Supplied Keyword: Privacy; NAICS/Industry Codes: 519190 All Other Information Services; Number of Pages: 29p; Document Type: Article