3 Principles That Give Internet a Human Dimension

According to President of Pontifical Council for Social Communications

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 31, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications suggested three basic principles to give Internet a human dimension.

Archbishop John P. Foley listed the principles as truth, respect for the dignity of the human person, and the common good.

He proposed these principles Thursday in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when he addressed a meeting organized by the Catholic Press Association (www.catholicpress.org).

“First, truth. Never, never, never tell a lie,” the archbishop told the Catholic journalists.

“Second, the dignity of the individual person: Do not exploit individuals, respect their sacredness, which would include privacy and reputation,” he emphasized.

“Third, the common good: Do not do that which would disturb the moral tone or the peace within society,” the archbishop continued.

“The fundamental ethical principle is this: The human person and the human community are the end and measure of the use of media of social communication; communication should be by persons to persons for the integral development of persons,” he stressed.

Referring to the document “Ethics in Internet,” which the pontifical council published in February, Archbishop Foley said that one of the consequences of globalization “has been a shift of power from national states to transnational corporations.”

“It would seem that the use of the new information technology, including and especially Internet, needs to be informed and guided by a resolute commitment to the practice of solidarity in the service of the common good within and among nations,” he said.

He continued: “The spread of Internet also raises a number of other ethical questions about matters like privacy, the security and confidentiality of data, copyright and intellectual property law, pornography, hate sites, the dissemination of rumor and character assassination under the guise of news, and much else.”

“Fundamentally, however, we see the Internet as a source of benefits to the human race, benefits to be fully realized only if the problems are solved,” the archbishop said.

“A proof of these possibilities was an initiative of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, even before the popularization of the Internet in the past decade: RIIAL, the information network of the Church in Latin America,” he said.

RIIAL aimed “to stimulate interchange of data among the nations and churches of Latin America and to provide access to the cultural and spiritual treasures of the ages, to priests and faithful in the most remote parts of Latin America,” the archbishop said.

He continued: “When Internet became more popular, we made our materials accessible through Internet and we have found an improved flow of both current information and classic literature. The Vatican has even had international sound-and-video-stream theological conferences via Internet.”

But he warned: “While Internet is based upon egalitarianism, its instruments and its uses can also contribute to what can be called the ´digital divide,´ between the information-and-technology rich, and the info-and-techno poor.”

“Also, will Internet help to promote intercultural understanding or will it contribute to the imposition of a single culture on the world — sometimes with the resentment of those upon whom it is imposed?” he asked.

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