The ethics of corporate censorship of information-sharing behavior: a nonconsequentialist perspective

Hanfeng Zhong, Paul A. Watters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Recent research on information-seeking behavior (Watters and Ziegler 2016) has suggested a role for managing access to ensure consistency with local regulatory or policy requirements. However, sharing of self-generated, personal data—as facilitated by social-media companies—should be relatively free of information-sharing controls. While many studies have examined government censorship, the extent to which the private sector is complicit is often unclear. In this study, we examine whether censorship appears to occur on a number of social-media and related sites, including the transmission of sensitive keywords and URLs. The results indicate that some level of private-sector censorship is prevalent, often in breach of the technology companies’ own terms and conditions. In some cases, apparently harmless information is overblocked. These companies need to be more transparent about their censorship mechanisms and subject their actual policies and procedures to scrutiny and public debate. Removing controls on information-sharing behavior is con-sistent with a nonconsequentialist perspective on privacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-711
Number of pages15
JournalLibrary Trends
Volume68
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes

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