Fall 2023, Vol. 36, No. 1

Table of Contents, Fall/Winter 2023

BY HEATHER WALTERS

Image by MargJohnsonVA on Envato ElementsImage by MargJohnsonVA on Envato ElementsThe massive expansion of deepfakes has provided more fertile ground for the development of disinformation campaigns. What are the ethical concerns of deepfake video content? Why do they disproportionately impact women?

BY ERIK GUSTAFSON

Image by nd3000 on Envato ElementsImage by nd3000 on Envato ElementsWhile generative AI technologies may seem foreboding, this article contributes to current conversations about AI and ethics via the useful analogy of software and hardware. AI may not yet be stable or familiar, but nonethless, how can we think though the ethics of AI right now, in the present moment, even as it continues to change and expand?

BY GABBY SHERWOOD

Image by wirestock on Envato ElementsImage by wirestock on Envato ElementsImages are often considered useful or necessary to visually aid the written text of a news story. When such images are graphic and/or part of coverage for an on-going conflict, however, what responsibilities do journalists have to ensure sensitive content is handled ethically?

BY FINJA I. AUGSBURG, LEAH A. RANSOM & SCOTT R. STROUD

Image by National Cancer Institute on UnsplashImage by National Cancer Institute on UnsplashHow can scientists balance the communication of scientific complexity while also establishing and maintaining trust with the general public, especially in rapid onset public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic? 

BY ELLA IRWIN & SCOTT R. STROUD

Image by Jonathan Velasquez on UnsplashImage by Jonathan Velasquez on UnsplashTrue crime podcasts have exploded in popularity within the last decade. While they may help to ensure victims are not forgotten, what are the ethical ramifications of amatuers discussing unresolved cases via an entertainment medium?  

BY LEAH A. RANSOM

RoutledgeRoutledgeA review of The Ethics of Virtual and Augmented Reality: Building Worlds, by Erick Jose Ramirez. New York: Routledge, 2022. 216 pp. $128.00.

Media Ethics is grateful to its sponsors identified below, who are neither responsible for nor in control of our content.

The Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley The Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, has a longstanding commitment to nurturing principled newsgathering and storytelling, guided by a strong dedication to public illumination and civic betterment. Its two-year, immersive master of journalism curriculum includes instruction in professional ethics led by professor and former dean Tom Goldstein and current dean and journalism professor Edward Wasserman, formerly Knight chair in journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University.

The Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota The Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law is a research center located within the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. Its primary mission is to conduct research on, and promote understanding of, legal and ethical issues affecting the mass media. The Silha Center also sponsors an annual lecture series; hosts forums, conferences and symposia; produces the Silha Bulletin, a quarterly newsletter, and other publications; and provides information about media law and ethics to the public. Support is provided for faculty research, and for Silha Fellows working on advanced degrees.

The Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign The Institute offers a Ph.D. in communications within the traditions of social scientific research, historic-cultural interpretation, linguistics, and political economy. Its B.S. degree in Media Studies is rooted in the liberal arts. The Institute develops intellectually productive approaches to cultural, political, ethical and social challenges of the global communications economy. Public service and social responsibility are emphasized in the curriculum and research projects. Work in ethics is required of undergraduates and doctoral dissertations in communication ethics are an option.

  • Contact: Clifford Christians, Director, Institute of Communications Research, College of Communications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 810 S. Wright St., Suite 228, Urbana, IL 61801; Telephone: 217.333.1549; E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • Website: Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Facultad de Comunicación, Universidad de Navarra/The School of Public Communication, University of Navarra, offered the first Spanish academic degree in journalism starting in 1958. Since that time, it has offered both graduate and undergraduate degrees in three different sequences: Advertising, Radio, Film and Television, and Journalism. Each sequence includes specific courses involving media ethics.

  • Contact: José J. Sánchez-Aranda, Facultad de Comunicación, Universidad de Navarra, Pamploma, España; E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • Website: The School of Public Communication, University of Navarra 

Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication The Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication is a research center at The Pennsylvania State University College of Communications dedicated to the study and advancement of ethics and responsibility in corporate communication. The Center has awarded over $320,000 to scholars and professionals to support research about ethics and responsibility in public communication.

Contact: Director, Denise Sevick Bortree, The Arthur W. Page Center, 201 Carnegie Building, University Park, PA 16802; E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Telephone: 814.863.6307.

Kegley Institute of Ethics The Kegley Institute of Ethics is committed to stimulating ethical thought and reflection on the California State University, Bakersfield campus and in our greater community. We host major lectures, panels and workshops, and we sponsor scholarships and research for faculty and students.

  • Contact: Michael D. Burroughs, Ph.D., Director, Kegley Institute of Ethics, 26 BDC, 9001 Stockdale Highway, Bakersfield, CA 93311; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Telephone: 661-654-3578
  • Website: Kegley Institute of Ethics

Endicott College School of Communications Endicott College strives to instill in students an understanding of and an appreciation for professional and liberal studies through coursework andnapplied learning.  The College has a vision for the total development of the individual within a community that fosters an appreciation of diversity, international awareness, community service, and moral and ethical values. For further information see Web Site.

Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies, Duquesne University Duquesne University's Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies teaches and conducts research and development in the broad domain of communication studies, including integrated marketing communication, public relations and advertising, corporate communication, intercultural communication, communication ethics, rhetoric, and persuasion in the marketplace. Our departmental foundations are communication ethics, a humanities approach to the discipline, a research and development culture, and ongoing practical engagement with the marketplace.

  • Contact: Janie Harden Fritz (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Alyssa Groom (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.); Telephone: 412.396.6446. Mailing address: Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies, Duquesne University, 600 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
  • Website: Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies, Duquesne University  

SPECIAL THANKS

In addition to the intellectual contributions of our authors, and the financial contributions of our sponsors, Media Ethics would like to express its particular gratitude to:

Bob Gardner, film-maker, scholar, and benefactor, passed away in 2014.  But his support of Media Ethics continues, since his latest gift was dedicated to the five-year period 2012-2017, an act of generosity we truly appreciate.

Our hosts at the Institute of Communications Research of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, the past publishers of the magazine, are to be thanked. The current publisher of Media Ethics, the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin and its Center for Media Engagement, are also to be thanked for their gracious support of the magazine’s present and future mission.

These “special thanks” shouldn't be thought of as detracting from our appreciation for The Grand Masonic Lodge of Massachusetts, particularly Grand Secretary Arthur Johnson, Grand Master Roger Pageau, and Assistant Grand Treasurer Craig MacPherson for providing the space and other facilities that enable the Media Ethics office to function.

We also want to give thanks and recognition for the significant support of the following individuals and groups: Randy Bytwerk, Mark Fackler, the Dept. of Communications at Calvin College, Jochen Zeitz, and anonymous individuals. The voluntary donations of each of these friends is extremely important to us.

Upcoming and past meetings, events, lectures, resources, and seminars related to media ethics are shared here. The announcements that follow are based on information supplied by the organizations involved or other sponsors. If you wish to have announcements of future meetings published in Media Ethics, please contact the editor at sstroud(at)austin.utexas.edu.

 

Resources for Teaching Ethics

A growing list of case studies suitable for use in media and communication ethics courses can be found at the Media Ethics Initiative website: www.mediaethicsinitiative.org. The Media Ethics Initiative is based in the Center for Media Engagement in the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas Austin.

 

PTC 2024 REPORT: AI AND TELECOM ETHICAL ISSUES IN THE PACIFIC REGION

Imagine a world in which citizens receive communication all of which is created and delivered by AI. And imagine that all of these messages seem to be coming from world leaders, the United Nations, health professionals, entertainers, the military, lawyers, schools, and police forces. Just as citizens are seldom aware of what is written by speech-writers, assistants, and delegated staff, it will be increasingly difficult to determine not only authorship, but also accuracy, and accountability of electronic communication from everyone.

What if all instructions sent to nuclear weapons, surgical technology, life support systems, vehicles, and military strike forces are also generated and distributed by artificial intelligence? Who will know the answers and be responsible for the hazards of chronic misinformation which was irreversibly distributed? Who will know if any information from any conduit is accurate and was generated or distributed by human beings?

These were among the ethical questions raised by some of the Scholars, lawyers, regulators, and industry experts at the conference known as “PTC ’24.” Many other ethical questions pertaining to security, diversity, privacy, equity, and regulation were posed and debated at the 46th annual Pacific Telecommunications Council conference (PTC, ’24) held from January 21-24, 2024 in the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel in Honolulu. Over 3,100 professional communicators, lawyers, regulators, academics, and others from over 50 countries and territories participated to discuss topics regarding the economics, engineering, impact, policies, laws, and infrastructure of the information technology industries within countries both surrounding and surrounded by the Pacific.

PTC board chair, Bill Barney, noted huge growth opportunities for telecom companies within the Australasian Pacific. With such opportunities come multiple challenges and ethical issues. Most topics (cf. issues) were discussed within the context of what can be called “multiple concurrent technological and social revolutions” epitomized by the multi-cloud and AI environments.

An important ethics panel about Artificial Intelligence was entitled "AI: Risks, Rights, and Responsibilities” and featured panelists Elizabeth Fife, Professor at the University of Southern California, Professor Richard Taylor at Penn State University, Professor Jenifer Winter at the University of Hawaii, and Ph. D student Ali Nikkhah at University of California – Irvine.
Nikkhah, one of PTC’s “Emerging Scholars,” pointed out that AI is not simply a dimension of digital transformation but is rather the driving force which can expand either what has been called by others “green light” or “red light” AI. Three cited examples of “green” (pro-social) uses of AI were the better detection of human trafficking, of hidden acts of violence, and of hate speech. Ali Nikkhah also cited examples of “red” (anti-social) ethics problems within AI such as the inherent discrimination in Amazon’s AI Recruiting Tool, the lack of medical expertise in IBM’s AI “Doctor,” and the problems of false detection and reporting in the use of AI face recognition.

Richard Taylor chronicled some of the relationships between AI and human rights. Beginning with the 1948 “Declaration of Rights and Freedoms,” Taylor described the 30 inherent human rights growing out of that United Nations document and the more recent 2022 “Socchi Human Rights” agreement of Russia and China in which rights are determined within national contexts. Taylor argued that major social indicators show that human rights, democracy, and liberal policy have evaporated within the past twenty years. Professor Taylor posited that the “south” regions (i.e. developing southern countries) are becoming high adopters of AI and Taylor argues that southern countries should be persuaded of the importance of human rights and of the value of “well being” as they implement greater AI. One implication of his insights is that AI could be instrumental in the further erosion of “universal” human rights.

Later Professors Richard Frieden (Pennsylvania State University), Heather Hudson (University of San Francisco), and Yasuhiko Kawasumi (Seisa University, Japan) spoke about “Addressing
The Digital Divide.” Concurrently, a panel considered “National Security and Telecommunications” featuring special guests Benjamin Goldsmith, Chief Technologist of the DOJ National Security Division and his colleague, Lee Licata; as well as Thomas Sullivan, Deputy Office Chief at the Office of International Affairs, within the Federal Communications Commission, and Patrick Boyd, representative of the FBI’s cyber-security. In the latter panel Goldsmith revealed that major security concerns for the U.S. DOJ include the information conveyed by subsea communication, advanced aerospace technology, and quantum computing. Licata added many areas where DOJ security work is important including inspecting communication from overseas offices for domestic businesses, from the overall supply chain, and from new data pipelines. Sullivan explained that the FCC approves communication licenses as approved by the Department of State and pointed to the importance of public transparency during that process.

On Monday, January 21, Professor Nir Kshetri of the University of North Carolina, delivered a paper on “Privacy and Security Issues Facing Metaverse: Analysis of Technological and institutional Factors.” Later partners and counsel from DLA Piper, Akerman LLP, Kelly Drye & Warren LLP, and Paul Hastings discussed regulatory and legal issues many of which overlapped with ethical ones. One important consideration was entitled “AI Rules of the Road are Coming” as forecast by Dean Bubley, Director/Analyst of Disruptive Analysis, LTD. Telecoms; Barlow Keener, Attorney at Womble Bond Dickison; Armand Musey, President of Summit Ridge Group; and Patricia Paoletta, Partner at HWG LLP.

Other questions asked at PTC included “why should there be limited availability and high prices for broadband in rural and indigenous communities which restrict opportunities for their residents to participate in the digital economy?” “Should not allocation of the spectrum for services such as 5G be governed by a framework that enables small, rural, and regional operators to invest in networks that support rural broadband?” and “Why not make certain that new entrants and small providers be eligible to use spectrum for 5G services through spectrum sharing, micro licenses, or other means?”

One of the most important topics of PTC 2024 pertained to the wisdom of diversity and inclusion in the telecommunication industries and related businesses and programs. In some contexts ethical issues of fairness, racism, gender equity, sexual orientation bias, and discrimination were highlighted. Of unique importance this year was PTC’s partnering with the Special Olympics which led in turn to a session on “Championing Inclusion.” Concerns about discriminatory practices regarding disability, better described as “unique ability”, have been advanced by PTC, not only in discussion but also in action.

All telecom/IT/AI issues have become far more complicated within an international context given the multitude of policies, cultural traditions, governments, and the degree and scope of “consumer rights” in each country. Security and privacy have become huge concerns as witnessed by the scandals surrounding Facebook, Google, Equifax, and the hacking of the U.S. presidential elections. Curiously, TikTok was frequently mentioned at PTC 24 without referencing the associaged ethical concerns surrounding national security and privacy.

An interesting and often under-reported issue might be called “investor ethics.” Many investment companies support telecom and AI development in the Pacific. Before they invest, what questions should investors ask about the ethical, diversity, and sustainability practices of the potential clients they consider? What are their criteria regarding fairness, equity, and inclusiveness when considering competing bids for financing? Traditionally, PTC programs have been committed to providing examples of “green light” (cf. “doing well by doing good”) ethics involving the pro-social humanitarian uses of technology, not just “red light” danger ethics issues such as invasion of privacy, disruption of security, e-fraud, and conflict of interest. PTC seems committed to supported technologies and companies engaged with serving humanitarian issues and indeed funds were collected this year to support relief for the tragic Maui fires.

Overall challenges in telecom/AI/IT fields pertain to the gap between the rapidity of innovation and the lag in governmental policy, the minimal inclusion of diverse stakeholders in development decision-making, an increasing lack of AI management transparency, a failure to insure accountability and enforcement within AI decision-making, and the lack of a human-centric approach. As many panelists concluded, there is the need for international collaboration, universal ethical standards, data governance protocols, sustainability within AI and other high tech development, and regulatory alignment among regional and national policies.

Further information about PTC ’24 and other PTC events and materials may be obtained at www.ptc.org, via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and by writing Pacific Telecommunications Council, 914 Coolidge Street
, Honolulu, HI 96826-3085.

Tom Cooper,
Emeritus faculty, Emerson College
Events Editor, ME magazine

 

Media Ethics Symposium: ‘Challenges to Digital Media Flourishing’

Call for Papers

The Don W. Davis Program in Ethical Leadership is seeking manuscripts for the ‘Challenges to Digital Media Flourishing’ symposium. Submission deadline is 15 April 2024.

[Exact Symposium dates to be announced soon.]

Original manuscripts addressing any of a broad spectrum of issues in media ethics and communication technology are welcome. Relevant topics include, but are not limited to, decision-making, moral judgment, privacy, autonomous agency, trust, deception, credibility, identity, accountability, data use and management, and social responsibility. Focus may center on audience effects, or issues and motivations within a media sector, such as journalism, marketing, public relations, or social media. Manuscripts drawing from philosophy of technology, virtue theory, or moral psychology are particularly encouraged. Both quantitative and qualitative approaches are welcome, as are non-polemical philosophical explication approaches.

The purpose of the symposium is to foster advanced theorizing in the field of media ethics and to open opportunities for interaction with discussants and the symposium’s two keynote senior scholars. Up to 12 manuscript authors will be selected and provided with travel and lodging support. Top submissions will be considered for inclusion in a special issue of the Journal of Media Ethics.

Manuscript submissions must be no longer than 9,000 words (not including figures, tables and references). Send submissions as Word documents by 15 April, 2024, to Patrick Lee Plaisance at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

EDITOR  
Scott R. Stroud  
   
EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER  
Moody College of Communication/UT Austin  
   
REVIEWS/EVENTS EDITOR
 
Tom Cooper  
   
ADVISORY BOARD  
Anantha S. Babbili Jane E. Kirtley
Ralph Barney Christopher Meyers
Michael D. Burroughs Grafton Nunes
Marvin Kalb Jennifer Pozner
Richard Keeble Lance Strate
Jean Kilbourne Edward Wasserman
Clifford G. Christians  
   
FORMER STAFF  
Mike Kittross (Editor, 1996-2018)  
Eric Elbot (Co-editor, 1990-1996)  
Manny Paraschos (Publisher)  
   
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS  
Jay Black Kenneth A. Harwood
Tom Brislin Robert Hilliard
Amy M. Damico Jerry Lanson
Deni Elliott Kaarle Nordenstreng
A. David Gordon Jeffrey L. Seglin
Gary Grossman Jane B. Singer
   
EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS  
Kat Williams  
Justin Pehoski   
   
DESIGN  
Mary-Lynne Bohn, Accent Design, Inc.  
   
WEB DEVELOPMENT AND MAINTENANCE  
Luke Carl Hartman  |  Web Development | Spring 2023