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..