The conduct of the members of any profession must be of very high standards in professional terms. The Australian Computer Society (ACS) requires very high standards in its Code of Conduct for members so as to be able to earn the credibility as well as the prestige IT professionals deserve. The ACS Code of Conduct does not include many detailed rules as it only focuses on the most essential matters and as such it requires a much broader interpretation. It is mandatory for all members of ACS to comply with the Code of Conduct.
The code bears relevance in law in terms of legislation. Awareness of the Code’s requirements by IT professionals is crucial as non-adherence by a member in their field may lead to claims of professional negligence by clients. The regulatory regime of the Internet Censorship Body of Australia gives powers to its subsidiary, the Australian Communications and Media Authority to enforce restriction of Internet Content that is hosted within the country as well as maintaining a black-list of foreign websites by using filtering software.
Foreign websites which have or are likely to be refused classification in Australia are target for mandatory filtering in Internet Censorship proposal by the Australian Labor Party-led government since 2008. The import of this proposal is that providers of internet services would be forced to ensure that they block black-listed websites from reaching its customers. Two years later, the policy still awaits enactment as a result of the inexistence of legislation to this effect (Moses 2010). As expected, the proposal for the introduction of mandatory filtering has been met with considerable opposition.
Some amount of tension has been generated in Australia. Its opponents have raised various concerns but a few people who are in strong support of the policy welcomed it. In Australia, Internet content is bound by federal as well as state laws on the censorship of internet content. The ACS has an internet filtering body coupled with a taskforce for E-security. The task force provides advice on technical issues and policies concerning internet content and the material that is unsuitable for the viewing by the general society.
This provides the basis for the legislation on internet content in Australia. The decision by the Australian government through information minister Senator Stephen Conroy to filter the pages viewed by internet users is consistent with the requirements of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) Code of Conduct and Ethics. The ethical code, in section 4. 1, starts by clearly stating its efforts aimed at advancing the dignity, honor a swell as the effectiveness Information Technology as a profession.
It states that in observance of its ethical conduct and high competence standards, every member is supposed to be honest in addition to being forthright and impartial. Members are supposed to be loyal in their service to the community (ACS Code of Ethics 1998). It further states that every member has to put all efforts aimed at increasing the profession’s competence as well its prestige. Every member is required to use the special skill and knowledge they possess towards advancing human welfare. The code of conduct is binding in its requirements.
Section NR 4. 3 and section N4. 4 categorically states that the code binds all members with regard to their professional conduct. The implication of this requirement is that once the legislation for the filtering scheme is enacted, all members will have no option other than to oblige. It will automatically take effect because it is backed by both the federal and the state government. This is good news to many parents and school teachers who have always battled delinquent behavior in learners without success.
Foreign and unacceptable behaviors on some web pages have been accessed and acquired by minors who are otherwise not supposed to view them and as a result the parents and teachers have been unable to control them (Computerworld Australia 2008). Learning is seriously compromised by the content of these offending websites and filtering them is the only effective solution to ensure that it does not reach the school children. The are some specific internet contents which the government has already outlawed and indeed does filtering. These are the contents that have to do with political parties, euthanasia, video games and racism.
On the ethical side of consideration on the government’s decision to filter the content that the public should be allowed to view, this is actually a move in the right direction because left uncontrolled, the public can view anything, just about everything. This automatically leads to moral rot. The advent of the internet has led to a sudden decline in morals in many societies globally and the Australian government is justified in suggesting an ambitious plan to ensure that internet content that is hosted within the country is restricted.
It is upon the realization of the dangers posed by overseas websites, more than anything else, that the proposals read out by the information minister were made. It will be of no benefit for the Australian Communications and Media Authority to enforce a restriction on internet content that is hosted from within the country and leave content from outside unchecked as people can always view the pages that thrill them from the foreign websites (The Sydney Morning Herald 2009. It is not surprising that the proposal for mandatory filtering of all internet content whether local or from overseas has been met with mixed reactions (ABC News 2007).
The proponents of the filtering of internet content are genuinely concerned that the benefits that these internet pages have are by far outweighed by the harm they bring upon the community, not only in Australia, but in all other countries in the world. The minister was justified in bringing the filtering proposals in his genuine concern to rid the society of the moral rot that, courtesy of unrestricted internet access, has been spreading like the country’s infamous bush fires.
The opponents of the proposed legislation on mandatory filtering of both locally hosted and overseas internet pages are on their part justified to object to these requirements in such loud voices as they have. Their objection to this legislation is by a very big percentage motivated by their selfish interest to continue being in the market for all the wrong reasons. Any person or a group of people in business are motivated by the sole interest of making as much profit as they can and as such what they give to their viewers does not matter as much as the profit they stand to get out of it.
It gets even worse because they are prepared to go out of their way to give their viewers anything that they view most, bad as it may be (The Digital Liberty Coalition 2008). The ACS code of conduct and ethics in 4. 3 stipulates the values and ideals expected of the members. Members are expected to be professionally responsible and display integrity in their actions. They are supposed to deal with clients and the community, students and employees in a responsible way and with integrity.
This requirement is good in terms of ethics and it can minimize the number of obscene and violent web content if adhered to by all internet providers. The general society needs to be protected from some pages whose influence is negative to the society. Section 4. 3. 4 further binds the members of ACS by ensuring social responsibility in their work to the society. It states that all members should make it their duty to ensure that they uplift and improve their clients’ quality of life. This is a big calling but it must be adherered to in order to preserve and improve the lives of all the people they work for.
It is unethical for any IT specialist to upload a morally corrupting page on the internet to be viewed by others who would otherwise do a lot better without it. The proposal by the information minister borrows mainly from the ACS code of conduct as it spells out clearly all the rules that IT professionals should follow so that they can preserve the prestige and dignity the profession is supposed to have. This is in section 4. 3. 5 under Information Technology Profession in which every member is expected to promote the integrity of their profession.
The members must do their work in respect of the profession and for one another. Section 4. 5. 1 of the ethics code makes it mandatory for all members to preserve continuity in the services of information technology as well as to put information flow in their care. This clearly means that all members are bound by the requirement to strive to ensure that the consumers of their services get only what they are supposed to get. They must give only the useful information to the general public which constitutes their client base.
Material that has been refused classification by the regulatory authority should not be uploaded because of the dangers it portents (Electronic Frontiers Australia 2008). The IT profession is a beneficiary of such a move as proposed by the information minister as it would regain its name as a respectable profession and people would have more respect for IT professionals which has of late been declining due to the actions of some unscrupulous IT specialists who have made it their habit to posting pages whose content can not do any good to the society (ABC News 2007).
The general society as a whole will be the overall winners from this legislation to the detriment of those who have made it their business by sending to the innocent viewers corruptible web content. The hands of the IT professionals who may harbor ill motives are tied by clause number 4. 6. 5 which clearly states that all members of ACS must bear the responsibility of their work. If any of them posts a page that is in the opinion of the ACS disciplinary board; immoral or unsuitable for viewing by the general public, then their conduct shall be found to be unethical and the appropriate disciplinary action will be carried out on them.
Courtney from Study Moose
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