Online Responsibility: Bad Samaritanism and the Influence of Internet Mediation

Science and Engineering Ethics 18 (1):117-141 (2012)
In 2008 a young man committed suicide while his webcam was running. 1,500 people apparently watched as the young man lay dying: when people finally made an effort to call the police, it was too late. This closely resembles the case of Kitty Genovese in 1964, where 39 neighbours supposedly watched an attacker assault and did not call until it was too late. This paper examines the role of internet mediation in cases where people may or may not have been good Samaritans and what their responsibilities were. The method is an intuitive one: intuitions on the various potentially morally relevant differences when it comes to responsibility between offline and online situations are examined. The number of onlookers, their physical nearness and their anonymity have no moral relevance when it comes to holding them responsible. Their perceived reality of the situation and ability to act do have an effect on whether we can hold people responsible, but this doesn’t seem to be unique to internet mediation. However the way in which those factors are intrinsically connected to internet mediation does seem to have a diminishing effect on responsibility in online situations
Keywords info:mesh/Comprehension  info:mesh/Social Behavior  info:mesh/History, 20th Century  info:mesh/Intuition  Humans   Suicide   Social Behavior   Helping Behavior   Comprehension   Intuition   Violence   Moral Obligations   History, 20th Century   Famous Persons   Internet  info:mesh/Internet  info:mesh/Humans  info:mesh/Helping Behavior  info:mesh/Moral Obligations  info:mesh/Suicide  info:mesh/Violence  info:mesh/Famous Persons
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DOI 10.1007/s11948-010-9253-z
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Peter Singer (1972). Famine, Affluence, and Morality. Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
Jason Stanley (2008). Knowledge and Certainty. Philosophical Issues 18 (1):35-57.

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