The Jake Baker case.
Peruse the on-line readings on the Jake Baker case. Then address
one or more of these questions.
- Was it ethical of Baker to write the sexual fantasy he did that
named a student in his class?
- Was it proper of University of Michigan President James Duderstadt
to suspend Baker under the provision that allows him to take actions necessary
to keep order on campus?
- University officials said they would not have taken action
against Baker if he had not named his potential victim. Would Baker, by
widely publicizing his desire to commit crimes of violence, have been a
threat to order even if he had not named his victim?
- Baker was indicted for threatening the abovementioned student,
but charges were later dropped. Does it appear to you that he had committed
an indictable offense?
- If you were the threatened student, would your fears be allayed
by his expulsion, or would you feel safer if he were fined or jailed for
- If you believe that Baker had a First Amendment right to post
the stories he wrote, does this also mean the university had no right
to suspend, let alone expel, him?
- The Internet allows any individual to reach a potentially
wide audience, much wider than in any self-published print newsletter. Does
this impose ethical limitations on one's free speech that are more stringent
than in print newsletters?
Restricting online information.
Should there be restrictions on on-line information, and if so,
who should impose them? The documents on this week's Web page,
especially those in the Overview
section, offer good background on this subject.
- Several reasons have been suggested for restricting indecent, obscene,
or pornographic material on the Internet. What do you think of them?
- The Internet is too accessible to children, and it is impossible to
determine whether a "consumer" of these materials has reached the legal age.
- Since Miller v. California , "community standards"
have determined whether sexually oriented materials are legally obscene
in a given community, but it is impossible to fix any limits on a community
on the Internet.
- If restrictions are needed, who should impose them?
- Should it be government?
- Should it be on-line services and Internet access providers
(including schools and universities)?
- Santa Rosa Junior College
got into trouble for not restricting what appeared on its campus system,
while Carnegie Mellon University was attacked
for restricting theirs. What's a campus administrator to do?
- A free-speech purist would contend that on-line services
should not be allowed to restrict what customers put on their networks.
Do you agree?
- Is a college compelled to "censor" the "electronic free
speech" of students in an attempt to prevent harassment?
- Does the presence of a moderator make a difference?
Perhaps an unmoderated conference is subject to free-speech protections,
but if there is a moderator, then (s)he must do his job.
- Should a federal agency be allowed to force a university
to answer the above question one way or another?
- Is it ethical for a college to demand non-divulgence
of electronic conversations? Is that a violation of freedom of speech, or
a legitimate use of a non-compulsory electronic conference?
- Is any electronic conference sponsored by a college
an "educational activity"?
- Is a conference a private conference simply because
students must ask to join (even if everyone who asks to join is allowed to)?
- Should a university be involved in setting up a conference
that, in effect, lets some students talk behind other students' backs?
- If your answer to the previous question is yes, is
it ethical to set up separate conferences for men and women students?
- Did Dylan Humphrey behave ethically by breaking confidentiality?
Online hate and porn: Is there a technological "fix"?
The question of how to protect children from pornography and hate
literature is fraught with controversy. One side says that government should
restrict the availability of these materials on-line, just as it has restricted
them off-line. The other side notes that it is difficult or impossible to
limit children's access without also limiting adults' access, and views government
restrictions as violations of free speech.
Free-speech advocates suggest that parents limit their children's
access, citing several
programs that block access to offending Websites and newsgroups. But
critics note that parents aren't all computer literate and children might
find ways to bypass the controls. (Search for "empower" in this article.)
For more background, you might peruse some of the documents in the cyberporn
hate speech sctions of this week's Web page.
- Which risk do you find more troubling, that children will gain access
to inappropriate materials, or that government will infringe on constitutionally
- Are Internet filters an acceptable compromise in dealing with
- What about foreign Websites -- how can U.S. law attack the
problem when the Internet is worldwide?
- Another approach is for Internet sites to screen their documents
for appropriateness without also limiting adult audiences. Would this approach
be effective? What if the raunchiest sites chose not to comply? Could government
-- or Internet access providers -- mandate that documents be coded?
Index of Topic - Study Guide