Anti-censorship, benevolent payloads and human rights

Computers and robots have long been used in “physical” environments where it is too dangerous, hostile, or difficult for humans to perform tasks. What about situations where the danger stems from political and legal environments? This paper will look at the ethical and legal use of a computer worm to perform anti-censorship tasks. Two specific scenarios will be examined. The first will look at the use of a computer worm to monitor and test Internet censorship of “the Great Firewall of China”. The second will highlight the use of a worm for anonymous networks, and to deflect encryption detection through chaffing and winnowing. The third will look at the use of a computer worm to disseminate vital information in situations where public health is threatened by government censorship drawing on the health epidemics of AIDS, SARS and Avian Bird Flu in the People’s Republic of China. Ethical and legal issues will be examined in a general fashion and then within the framework of human rights and Confucius moral philosophy. Technical and political issues will also be examined to the extent that they better inform the ethical debate.
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