Ethics of the Information Society

The development of the information society has considerable educational, scientific and cultural implications.

The role of COMEST is to examine a wide spectrum of questions related to the rise of the information society. The analysis is carried out with a view to assess the social and cultural impact of the issues at stake, taking into account their significance, and related psychological representations. In this regard, particular attention is also paid to both the positive and negative impact of the Information Society on social relations.
Some of the issues COMEST has dealt with during its initial phase are:
  • ICTs, empowerment and rights

  • The digital divide

  • Social responsibilities of ICT designers

  • Cultural values, identities and multilingualism

  • Relationship between ICTs and applied research

  • The notion of “technological determinism” in decision-making
Joining other initiatives in UNESCO, such as the promotion and preservation of ethical dimensions and principles in cyberspace, COMEST will have an active role emphasizing the ethical and legal point of view concerning information content, and all the rights involved in the Internet and modern mass media.

COMEST will be present in the preparation of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), where UNESCO has a role as the “content organization” acting as catalyst, suggesting strategies and influencing policy-making.

UNESCO’s vision is to create knowledge societies that respect universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights. The preservation and promotion of cultural diversity, including multilingualism, is one of the common principles proposed. The principle of freedom of expression and freedom of the press is highlighted as a condition sine qua non for citizen’s participation in democracy and the pillar of knowledge societies.

COMEST recognizes that information drives human society and human development at large; and that today we are facing a deluge of information and a subsequent crisis on trust in scientific and technological progress.

With a particular emphasis on broader intersectoral cooperation within UNESCO, COMEST proposes the following recommendations:
  • Focus on a comparative analysis of the cyberspace ethical issues with ethical issues raised by other communication technologies.

  • Define and compare the different rights in the field of information ethics.

  • Produce a report on the ethical issues related to personal privacy and abuses of identity theft.

  • Produce a report on the new hardware and software that might conflict with equal access or freedom of expression.

Meeting of the COMEST Sub-Commission on the Ethics of the Information Society
(Prague, Czech Republic; 30-05-2003 - 02-06-2003)
Defining the new priorities for the work of the Sub-Commission