Reluctant Gatekeepers: Corporate Ethics on a Filtered Internet

Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing, Internet, Search and Advertising and Media and Content

Article Snapshot


John Palfrey


in Global Internet Technology Report, World Economic Forum, p. 69, 2006-2007


This paper looks at what happens when firms are asked to police the Internet.

Policy Relevance

Traditional legal principles often do not effectively address concerns with government surveillance and content control. Firms should adhere to a voluntary code of conduct to address ethics concerns.

Main Points

  • Many states try to control Internet content, ranging from child pornography to religious material. Governments require the cooperation of the firms that run communications networks to control content. Legal measures (such as an obligation to keep records) as well as technical measures are used.

  • Government surveillance and content control online can slow economic growth, violate civil liberties, and harm emerging democracies.

  • The types of firms affected include hardware and software makers, Internet service providers, telecommunications networks, online publishers, and online service providers.

  • Firms should resolve ethics concerns by developing and adhering to a voluntary code of conduct addressing privacy and other concerns.

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