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Ethics of Information

Ethical principles for knowledge societies derive from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and include the right to freedom of expression, universal access to information, particularly that which is in the public domain, the right to education, the right to privacy and the right to participate in cultural life. The international debate on information ethics (“infoethics”) addresses the ethical, legal and societal aspects of the applications of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

In close cooperation with its Member States, UNESCO supports and promotes the ethical dimensions of the information society, which is one of the priorities of the Organization in its overall effort to implement the decisions of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Free and unhindered access to information on the interactive networks remains a key goal, raising various ethical issues that require the attention of the international community.

Changes brought about by the rapid development of information and communication technologies (ICT) not only open tremendous opportunities to humankind but also pose unprecedented ethical challenges. Ensuring that information society is based upon principles of mutual respect and the observance of human rights is one of the major ethical challenges of the 21st century.  Along with the benefits of a digitally connected world come the threats of misuse and abuse.

Already countries are building mechanisms to protect their people against these risks, for example to ensure the safety of children on the Internet, but clearly a lot more needs to be done to address the ethical implications of the information society.

UNESCO, in collaboration with its partner institutions, and through its Information For All Programme (IFAP) seeks to address these challenges towards a fair and multicultural information society.