Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hong Kong's latest ICT initiative: Project Net Respect

During the recent nude-photos incident in Hong Kong, the Internet was put on center stage in an unwilling leading role. As a result, there are concerns within the Internet user community about adverse effects on the sustainable development of the Internet, especially in the area of freedom of expression.

A global professional membership society with about 100 chapters in over 180 countries, the Internet Society (ISOC) addresses issues such as Internet governance, technology standard, equal access and information freedom. Since its inception in 1992, ISOC has encouraged responsible and effective use of the Internet through education, discussion and advice to public policy makers. The Hong Kong Chapter – the Internet Society Hong Kong (ISOC HK) – strives to work with government, industry and civil society to pursue these objectives in a collaborative and inclusive manner.

The ISOC is guided by the primary principle that “the Internet is for everyone” – to safeguard the integrity and continuity of Internet development and operations, to support and contribute to the evolution of the Internet as an open, decentralized platform for innovation, creativity and economic opportunity. The Internet is about opportunity, empowerment, knowledge and freedom. Based on these core values, ISOC HK has announced "Project Net Respect" in collaboration with Sin Chung Kai, Legislative Councilor for IT and Computerworld Hong Kong columnist.

ICT code of ethics

The objective of Project Net Respect is to align the ICT industry to advocate, promote and educate the public, especially students and youth, with an “ICT User’s Code of Ethics” for the use of ICT technologies, emphasizing self-respect and respect for others:

"An ICT user – of devices and technologies including but not limited to computers, Internet, mobile phones, etc. – should act respectably, honorably, honestly, justly, responsibly and legally. Using ICT devices and the network, he or she:
  1. Should not harm others but should consider and respect other human beings;
  2. Should not steal or act with malicious or dishonest intent;
  3. Should prevent abusive uses, especially relating to gender and ethnic discrimination, hatred, violence and exploitation of living beings;
  4. Should not pry others’ computer files or break into systems without authorization;
  5. Should not use other people’s resources without authorization;
  6. Should care for and improve the security of his or her own systems and data;
  7. Should honor intellectual property rights;
  8. Should respect the privacy and personal data of others
  9. Should respect the freedom, equality and tolerance of others;
  10. Should contribute to society and consider the social consequences of his or her actions or programs written or executed."

The code drew references from others developed in the past decades by the Computer Ethics Institute, UNESCO and Association of Computing Machinery. We plan to shortly organize an industry roundtable to finalize the code and other activities.

Promotion and education

The second part of our project is promotion – via printed literatures and materials to be posted or distributed at schools, universities, community youth centers, cyber-cafes, and also at the ICT product level, through manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

But the most important part of the project is education. We sent letters to all Hong Kong schoola offering to hold lectures on network conduct and ethics, Internet law and security for students, teachers and parents. Over 60 schools have accepted the offer. This is a huge task in the months ahead, and volunteers from the ICT industry are needed.

In the coming months, as the Government conducts a public consultation to review the Control of Obscene and Indecent Article Ordinance, pressures will mount to amend existing law to specifically target what happens on the Internet. As a matter of principle, ISOC HK is against technology-specific legislation, except where proven to be absolutely necessary. In a presentation to the Council of Europe in 2007, the ISOC stated:

"We would suggest that human behavior should be no different no matter the environment in which humans interact. If we begin to differentiate environments, then we may have to differentiate rights. And this starts to become complex and cumbersome, perhaps meaningless or even counterproductive. Individual rights and the values that guide how we interact with each other should be simple, clear and without complication.

"The issue may be not that we need new rights because of the Internet, but that we need to reinforce existing rights because the Internet has shown how fragile they can be when new technologies or new economic models are introduced...The future of the Internet, and the future of those who will use the Internet, depends on our communal effort to ensure these rights are respected.”

From "Computerworld Hong Kong," April, 2008

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