Kirk Debates the Ethics of the WorldWideWeb at the Assembly

The Church and Society Council have continued to be the voice of the Church of Scotland in a wide range of issues since last year’s General Assembly. With a broad remit one of those topics the subject of a report to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland looked at today was the ethical and moral challenges of the internet.

Its convenor Ian Galloway said “In the past decade the internet has become a continual presence the lives of most people living in the UK.  It has entered our home and work.  We use it for everything from booking holidays to entertainment.

The internet is not just the Worldwide Web but rather a universe of connectedness that has shaped our lives.  It can be used for good or ill”. For example, Social networking sites can be a force for the good and be used as a means of mobilising a movement and bringing about social change.  Networking sites such as Facebook, was effectively used by Barack Obama in his presidential election campaign, more recently, Twitter played a crucial role in the spread of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.

But while networking sites can be used for good the report highlights how they can be used as tools of exploitation and cyber-bullying.  They can be used to mutually reinforce the values of small, marginal and prejudiced or socially unacceptable groups.  We need a proper debate out the ethics of the internet

Notes to News Desks:

The Internet:  In whose image

General Assembly Commissioners of the Church of Scotland decided to instruct the Church and Society Council to work in partnership with others to facilitate discussion of the issues raised in the report on the internet; to consider the conflicts inherent in the use of the internet amongst freedom, liberty, regulation and control, the existence of competing mores, and issues of real and virtual identity; and to develop policies to reflect a Christian response to these conflicts; and to encourage the Church and Society Council to explore, with appropriate partners, the development of an ethical code for software developers, manufacturers and all internet users to promote the use of internet technologies for the good of society, not just commercial gain.

A consequence of the internet has been to create a “contest of selves” for individuals the report warns.  There is the virtual self, where we create avatars, to interact with others and ultimately leave traces of our virtual self in the digital world.  With the rise of e-Government where interaction in state matters there is what the Council describes as the “Excluded Self,” those to whom government services cannot be accessed because the services increasingly provided electronically are no longer available.  Thirdly, there is the “Relational Self.”  The report warns, may produce alienation from society or it may provoke moral and spiritual reflection for those on the edge of society.

The way we use the internet not only reflects society but as already said can transform society. Its use presents challenges and opportunities.  So it is that the Church of Scotland should continue to engage with these issues and seek to develop policies which may help meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities.

The report asked the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to instruct the Church and Society Council to work in partnership with others to facilitate discussion of the issues raised in the report on the internet.

The report asked the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to instruct the Church and Society to consider the conflicts inherent in the use of the internet amongst freedom, liberty, regulation and control, the existence of competing mores, and issues of real and virtual identity; and to develop policies to reflect a Christian response to these conflicts.

The report asked the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to encourage the Church and Society Council to explore, with appropriate partners, the development of an ethical code for software developers, manufacturers and all internet users to promote the use of internet technologies for the good of society, not just commercial gain.

To request an interview with Rev Ian Galloway, Convenor of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, please contact Nick Jury, Senior Media Relations Officer, njury@cofscotland.org.uk

Contact: Nick Jury
Phone: 0131 260 5241
Email: njury@cofscotland.org.uk
Website: http://www.cofscotland,org,uk