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A methodology for internal Web ethics. M. Vafopoulos , P . Stefaneas , I. Anagnostopoulos , K. O'Hara Philoweb , WWW2012 WSSC : “ webscience.org/2010/E.4.3  Ethics in the Web”. Research questions . what changes need to be incorporated in the Web to best serve humanity ?

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A methodology for internal web ethics
A methodology for internal Web ethics

M. Vafopoulos, P. Stefaneas, I. Anagnostopoulos, K. O'Hara

Philoweb, WWW2012

WSSC: “webscience.org/2010/E.4.3 Ethics in the Web”

Research questions
Research questions

what changes need to be incorporated in the Web to best serve humanity?

Can philosophy help in this direction? How?


  • Hypotheses

  • Being, space & time in the Web

  • Hayek’s freedom

  • 3-level analysis

    • The Technological Web

    • The Contextualized Web

    • The Economic Web

  • Results & discussion



  • ethically-relevant social machine

  • magma of Users and code

    start from the Web

    assume a self-containedWeb or

    the “manna from heaven” hypothesis

    (internal ethics analysis)

Manna from heaven hypothesis
“manna from heaven” hypothesis

  • Web is the only existing system

  • human beings are communicating & working solely through it

  • acompassionate ‘God’ provides the necessary quantity of ‘manna’, fulfilling all human needs, with no cost & effort

  • Web being, space & time

Being space time in the web
Being, space & time in the Web

  • A beingexists if and only if there is a communication channel linking to it

  • Web beings communicated through the Web

  • Web space: the Web being’s URI, incoming & outgoing links

  • Web time: visiting durations

A methodology for internal web ethics

  • minimal description of invariant elements in communication through the Web

  • borderline, interlocutor & fingerprint of Web being

  • enables transformation from digital to Web

  • directly connected to existence (birth, access, navigate, edit & death of a Web being)

  • other characteristics of Web beings may change in time

  • achange in URI means the death of existing & birth of a new Web being

The web space
The Web space

  • a division of position & place created by the links among Web beings

  • each Web being occupies a specific locus in the Web network

  • a 3d “geographic coordinate system”

  • heterogeneous

  • many “gravity” & relative “distance” metrics

  • Pagerank initially build on Web space

The web time
The Web time

  • a series of choices (visits) in the Web space (Bergsonian durations)

  • visiting selections attach semantic meaning

  • casual relationships among Web beings

  • counting: Log file as a generic common property & co-operation in the Web

The web time1
The Web time

Durations are becoming:

Discoverable, Observable, Traceable

Processable, Massive

  • increases material dimension of networks

  • enables reconstruction of consciousness & memory of Users

Freedom i
Freedom I

  • the source of values

  • “freedom-coercion” tradeoff

    • more options to solve problems collectively & innovate, but

    • some of these options may be used in ways that cause coercion

Freedom ii
Freedom II

  • Theories:

    how to construct a system that selects, with minimum social cost which positive options to sacrifice in order to minimize coercion (or the dual problem)

  • start with Hayek’s approach because confronts with most Web characteristics

Hayek s freedom i
Hayek’s freedom I

  • Stateposses the monopoly to enforce coercive power through General Rules

  • Personal Sphere & Property counterweight state power

  • General Rules are enforced equally & describe the borderlines between State & Personal Sphere

  • Propertyis a basic realization of General Rules

Hayek s freedom ii
Hayek’s freedom II

  • Competition is possible by the dispersion of Property

  • Mutually advantageous collaboration is based on Competition in service provision

  • effective anti-monopolistic policy: require from the monopolist (including the state) totreat all customers alike

  • Individualsshould be responsible & accountable for their actions

3 level analysis
3-level analysis

Apply theory of freedom according to Web’s evolution from plain s/w to ecosystem

  • The Technological Web

    • Internet infrastructure & Web software

    • The Contextualized Web

    • Sets of rules enforced through trust

    • The Economic Web

    • Economic contexts

The web as a space of freedom
The Web as a space of Freedom


badware applications (e.g. computer-zombies)

traffic censorship (e.g.“Snooping”)

inadequate quality of transmission

badware-infected Web Beings

central control & censoring of traffic

“walled gardens” in SN (privacy threats & fragmentation)

manipulation of indexing & searching (e.g. spamdexing)

un-trustworthy technologies, business & governments

badware & malicious representations

concentration of power in a minority of Users

inability of some people to benefit from the Web economy


free access & inter-connection of any compatible software/device

freely navigate, create and update Web Beings and links

universality, openness & separation of layers in engineering, editing, searching & navigating

establishspecific contexts in order to form beliefs that some Users/Web beings are trustworthy

no barriers to economize


  • Web software

Contextualized Web

Economic Web

Personal sphere
Personal sphere

IP address: can only be processed for certain reasons

  • Web: log file common ownership by design (admin & navigator)

  • architectural element of co-operation

    • Admin: direct access

    • Navigator: not straightforward

  • not proper practices for collecting traffic

  • should be further analyzed

General rules
General rules

Treating all Internet Users, Web Navigators & Editors equally

  • profile customization

  • open technological standards

  • efficient business incentives

The contextualized web
The contextualized Web

  • Web 2.5: not only User-Generated Content, but context

  • communication is central to establishing trust(Habermas)

  • rich connectivity of the Web is bound into its function

  • antitrust & coercion= the prices for widespread & beneficial trust

The contextualized web1
The contextualized Web

internal Web ethics:

  • ensure not that antitrust happens, but

  • that it is outweighed by beneficial trust to as great a degree as possible consistent with Hayekian notions of freedom

Challenges in the economic web i
Challenges in the economic Web I

obtain the right balance between:

  • open access and processing of online information (e.g. socially aware cloud storage, g-work)


  • provision of incentives to produce content & to develop network infrastructure

Challenges in the economic web ii
Challenges in the economic Web II

  • accelerate socio-economic development by facilitating life-critical functions in the developing world (e.g. W3F)

  • enable transparency & participationin the developed world (e.g. Open Data)

Challenges in the economic web iii
Challenges in the economic Web III

  • “Link economy”

  • “App economy”

  • excessive market power in Search Engine market

Results i
Results I

  • centralization of traffic &data control

  • rights on visiting log file

  • custom User profiles

  • interplay among function, structure &moral values

    are directly connected to the quality of freedom in the Web

Results ii
Results II

issues about freedom in lower levels of the Web (i.e. technology) have crucial impact on the subsequent levels of higher complexity (i.e. context, economy)

Next steps
Next steps

  • involve more theories & disciplines

  • relax assumptions

  • connect to engineering issues (e.g. TAG)

  • Webizing humanity & humanizing Web

Webizing humanity humanizing web
Webizing humanity & humanizing Web


  • emerged not as a business project with hierarchical structures but

  • as a creative & open space of volunteers outside traditional market and pricing

  • markets would have never invested such amounts in labor costs to develop it

  • temporal disconnection between effort & rewards

  • symbiosis between non-financial and financial incentives

Webizing humanity humanizing web1
Webizing humanity – humanizing web

In economy

  • incorporate in the entire economy, the best of the symbiosis between virtues and economic incentives in the Web

  • the Web has still many lessons to take from the long-living market mechanisms on how to best orchestrate effort and reward in society

Role of philosophy
Role of philosophy

  • What society can learn from the Web?

  • What can teach it in order to become more useful?

Thank you
Thank you!

  • More in vafopoulos.org


  • Being, space and time in the Web. Metaphilosophy (forthcoming).

  • The Web economy: goods, users, models and policies. Foundations and Trends in Web science(forthcoming).

The web time2
The Web time

“time of social systems” is

  • indeterministic,

  • Heterogeneous

  • irreversible

  • built on the Einsteinian time of physical systems.

The case of net neutrality
The case of Net Neutrality

  • QoS issues

  • Technological approach (e.g. Flow-Aware Networking)

  • generic freedom-coercion trade-offs are useful in framing the feasibility space but incomplete in treating more specific cases in practice (like NN)

Flow aware networking
Flow-Aware Networking

FAN may ensure neutrality along with the awareness of QoS

create an occurrence, upon which the implicit separation will be performed solely based on the current link status (e.g. dataflow congestion, traffic bottleneck etc.). Therefore, all datagrams are forwarded unconditionally in the pipeline, but they are also “equal”, subject to be separated or even dropped when the network tolerance demands it.

The main advantage of FAN-based architectures is that they differentiate the data flow, taking into account only the traffic characteristics of the currently transmitted information.

Hence, apart from data discrimination, it is not possible to comprehensively discriminate certain applications, services and end-Users.