University of Tampa • Fall 2017


Instructor: Laura Wildemann Kane, PhD, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Meeting Time: MW 4:00pm-5:50pm (Section J)

Meeting Location: ICB Room 240

Office: Plant Hall 317

Email: (preferred method of communication)

Phone: 813-257-3263

Office Hours: 1:00pm-2:30pm Wednesdays, 1:00pm-4:30pm Fridays, or by appointment.



Information ethics is relatively young field, beginning near the end of World War II and growing exponentially (especially since the 1970’s) in pace with developments in computer and information technology. Because computing devices, the Internet, and the sharing of information have all become such central parts of our lives, the questions that information and media ethics deal with have significant implications for the policies, practices, and principles that guide our use of technology and the means with which we share information with others.

This course will explore several foundational and contemporary arguments in Information and Media Ethics, especially those that have shaped (and continue to shape) our notions of privacy, anonymity, the use(s) of artificial intelligence, responsibility and accountability, free speech, truth, and propaganda. Some of the questions we will discuss include: Ought we promote human values at the expense of limiting technological reach? Do those persons who design and develop computer-related technologies have a special responsibility to consider or prevent ethical dilemmas related to their designs? Must the ethical policies that govern computers and the Internet necessarily be global ethical policies? What kinds of things ought to be protected under the concept of ‘Informational Privacy’? Ought we censor certain things on the Internet? Ought we ensure that the information communicated via new media technologies is free from bias, or that it does not perpetuate dangerous stereotypes?



The goals of this course are to provide students with an understanding of historical and contemporary debates in information and media ethics and, by doing so, engage them in broader philosophical debates about ethics, law, and political and social culture. By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Recognize, explain, and reflect upon the major philosophical arguments covered in this class, and critically compare them.
  2. Understand the major ethical frameworks that shape information and media ethics and have the confidence to apply them to current events.
  3. Hone critical thinking skills by analyzing philosophical arguments.
  4. Refine writing skills through course papers and exams.



  • Ess, Charles. 2015. Digital Media Ethics. Cambridge: Polity. (DME)
  • Moore, Adam D. 2006. Information Ethics: Privacy, Property, and Power. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press. (IE)
  • Stanley, Jason. 2015. How Propaganda Works. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. (HPW)



Throughout the semester, each student will write several blog posts on our designated class blog:
The blog will be password protected.

As an initial step, each student must be registered as an Author on the blog. During our first class meeting, each student will provide a reliably accessible email address to use for logging into the blog. I will use this email address to register each student as a blog Author. Students who become registered users of the class blog will be prompted to create a password to access the blog.

Our class syllabus, the specific blogging assignments, and instructions for how to use the WordPress blogging interface can be found on the blog. We will also go over how to post on the blog during one of our class meetings.

The purposes of using a class blog are twofold:

  1. The blog posts created by students, and subsequent responses to those posts, will be viewable by other students throughout the semester. These public-facing written assignments have the potential to inspire future paper topics (including our final paper) and may act as a collaborative study-guide for some of the topics we will cover in class. Additionally, a class blog gives students a chance to intellectually interact with one another outside of class.
  2. We increasingly communicate through digital channels (text messages, social networking sites, blogs, etc.). Many of these channels are public and require a writing style that is more expository and interactive than more traditional philosophical writing. As such, these blogging assignments offer an alternative writing environment for students to practice crafting their philosophical arguments.


INFORMATION REQUIRED TO ACCESS BLOG: Email address, user-chosen password.

Trouble accessing the site is not an excuse to submit an assignment late. If you are unable to post to the blog, please email me your blog post before the deadline to avoid being penalized for a late submission.


Your final grade will be calculated as follows:

Participation 10%
Writing Assignments and Responses (3 combined assignments – 10% each) 30%
Final Paper (6-8 pages) 20%
Midterm Exam 20%
Final Exam 20%
Total: 100%


The grade scale in this course is as follows:

‘A’ = 92.5+; ‘AB’ = 87.5-92.4; ‘B’ = 82.5-87.4; ‘BC’ = 77.5-82.4; ‘C’ = 72.5-77.4; ‘CD’ = 67.5-72.4; ‘D’ = 60-67.5; ‘F’ = 0-59.9.

Please see “Description of Assignments” for details about participation expectation, written work, and exams. 


 My goal as an educator is to give students confidence to learn course material by providing opportunities to 1) arrange your thoughts before class; 2) communicate your ideas in a receptive and respectful environment; 3) work with other students to hone ideas; and 4) practice writing philosophy in a variety of formats.

Participation – 10%

I expect students to participate in class discussions regularly. In-class participation includes asking questions, answering questions, offering interpretations of texts or media, proposing ideas or philosophically-relevant arguments, defending ideas or philosophically-relevant arguments, and responding thoughtfully and respectfully to your peers.

For those who might experience difficulties speaking out in class, writing response posts to the readings on the Blackboard discussion board, and/or attending office hours to discuss the readings will help to satisfy your participation grade. Your participation grade will be assessed based on your regular participation – if you do not participate, you will not receive a good grade!

Blogging Assignments and Responses – 30%

You are responsible for three short written assignments (blog posts), due BEFORE class begins on each assigned day (e.g. our first blogging assignment is due 9/18; assignments must be posted to the class blog before our class meeting on 9/18). Blogging assignments will posted to the class blog ( Each student is responsible for responding to one blog post BEFORE the following class meets (e.g. the first response assignment is due 9/20; responses must be posted to the class blog before class meets on 9/20).

Each blogging assignment must satisfy the following criteria:

  1. The focus of the assignment must relate one newspaper article to at least one scholarly article that we will read in class. Students are expected to highlight an ethical issue within the newspaper article that relates to our course material and discuss the issue using ethical frameworks that have been covered in class.
  2. Students must include at least one question for discussion within their blogging assignment.
  3. The assignment should be roughly 700-800 words in length.

Each written response must satisfy the following criteria:

  1. The focus of the response must relate either (a) to the discussion question posed by a student in their blogging assignment, or (b) it must respond directly to the content of a student’s blogging assignment.
  2. Responses should be thought of as a follow-up to the topic at hand, as we will have had time to discuss the assigned newspaper article and ethical issue(s) before the response is due. As such, they may incorporate a different perspective on the same ethical issue(s), or they may reflect a deeper understanding of the issue.
  3. Responses should be roughly 200-300 words in length.

Blogging assignments will be graded on a scale of 0-100%. Written responses will be graded on a scale of 0-2 (0 = no response posted; 1 = posted response does not adequately follow the required criteria; 2 = posted response receives satisfies the required criteria).

Each written assignment and response pairing count together as 10% (for a total of 30%) of your final grade.  If you fail to complete either portion of the assignment (the initial written assignment or the response), you will lose half of all eligible points.

Trouble accessing the site is not an excuse to submit an assignment late. If you are unable to post to the blog, please email me your blog post before the deadline to avoid being penalized for a late submission.

Final Paper – 20%

Your final paper is due by 11:59pm on December 6th. Final paper topics may be drawn from the major questions discussed in this class, or they may more closely examine one (or more) of the ethical issues covered in class that pertain to current events.

Final paper topics must be proposed and approved by me no later than 11:59pm on Friday, November 10th. I am happy to discuss paper proposals or to suggest possible paper topics. Please be sure to see me during office hours before November 10th to discuss paper topics.

Final paper drafts are due by 11:59pm on November 20th.

The final paper will be graded on a scale of 0-100%.

Midterm Exam – 20% of final grade

There will be midterm exam during class on October 23rd. The midterm will be comprised of true/false questions, multiple-choice questions, fill-in-the-blank questions, and short answer questions.
The midterm exam will be graded on a scale of 0-100%.

Final Exam – 20% of final grade

Your final exam will be given on December 11th.  It will be comprised of multiple-choice questions, true/false questions, fill-in-the-blank questions, short essay questions and long essay questions. It will be cumulative.
The final exam will be graded on a scale of 0-100%.


Make-Ups for assignments or exams will only be permitted for students who provide proper documentation for absences and/or missed work.


Laptop computers are not permitted in this class. There is evidence showing that the use of laptops in class creates unnecessary distraction, diminishes performance on exams, and disconnects students from the instructor and fellow classmates:

Focus is crucial, and we do best when monotasking: Even disruptions of a few seconds can derail one’s train of thought. Students process information better when they take notes — they don’t just transcribe, as they do with laptops, but they think and record those thoughts. One study found that laptops or tablets consistently undermine exam performance by 1.7 percent (a significant difference in the context of the study). Other studies reveal that writing by hand helps memory retention. Screens block us from connecting, whether at dinner or in a classroom.” For links to these studies, see:

<Also, I know that you will just shop or look at Facebook if you have a laptop open.>

iPad and other tablet devices are permitted in class for you to reference readings in the form of ebooks or PDFs only. These devices must lay flat on your desk throughout class or you will be asked to put them away.

Absolutely no phone of any kind will be permitted in class. If I see you using a phone during class time, you will be asked to leave and will be marked absent for the day.

All teaching slides will be posted in Blackboard following each class.


Aside from any officially excused absences (see the UT Attendance Policy here:, you are allowed to miss up to two class sessions for other reasons without penalty to your grade arising from the absence itself.  (Any assignment or deadline missed because of the absence is another matter.)  For every non-excused absence after the first two, your final course grade will drop by one percentage point (92% to 91%, 91% to 90%, 90% to 89%, etc.). Proper documentation must be provided to excuse any additional absences.

Excessive lateness will be factored into your attendance score and may count toward additional absences.


It is essential for all students to be able to explore course material in an open, safe, and professional environment.  Being on time, prepared, and respectful of your peers in class discussions are crucial to creating the proper environment for a full exploration of the course content.  Accordingly, your grade will be negatively affected by tardiness, lack of preparation, and the use of electronic devices for anything unrelated to class.


UT has a Philosophy major, a Philosophy minor, and an Asian Studies minor.

After taking this course, you will need just 8 more PHL courses (32 additional credits) to complete the Philosophy major.

The Philosophy major can be either a stand-alone major or a second major that complements work done in another field, thereby enriching your education, transforming your worldview, and, in some cases, making you significantly more marketable for jobs and grad school.

Not sure how to add Philosophy as a major?  Ask your instructor.

     Keep the following in mind:

Every PHL course at UT can count in some way toward the Philosophy major or Philosophy minor.  Some PHL courses also can also count toward the Asian Studies minor.

Either REL 288 Chinese Yoga and Meditation or REL 205 World Religions (but not both) may be used in place of a single, 4-credit PHL course elective for the purpose of completing the Philosophy major requirements at UT.

REL 288 and REL 205 can both count toward the Asian Studies minor.

However, neither REL 288 nor REL 205 count toward the Philosophy minor (but, as described above, they can count toward the Philosophy major and/or the Asian Studies minor).

Some PHL and REL courses can count simultaneously toward both the Philosophy major/minor and the Asian Studies minor.  Double dipping is okay.



Sexual violence includes nonconsensual sexual contact and nonconsensual sexual intercourse (which is any type of sexual contact without your explicit consent, including rape), dating violence, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, and stalking. You may reach out for confidential help (see contact info below) or report an incident for investigation.

If you choose to write or speak about an incident of sexual violence and disclose that this violence occurred while you were a UT student, the instructor is obligated to report the incident to the Title IX Deputy Coordinator for Students.  The purpose of this report is to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students.  The Deputy Coordinator or his or her designee will contact you to let you know about the resources, accommodations, and support services at UT and possibilities for holding the perpetrator accountable.  If you do not want the Title IX Coordinator notified, instead of disclosing this information to your instructor, you can speak confidentially with the individuals listed below.  They can connect you with support services and discuss options for holding the perpetrator accountable.

There is an exception to this required reporting for preventative education programs and public awareness events or forums.  While the instructor is not required to report disclosures during these instances, unless you make or initiate a complaint, during these programs or events, the instructor or another University official will ensure that the students are aware of the available resources at UT, such as counseling, health, and mental health services, and it will provide information about Title IX, how to file a Title IX complaint, how to make a confidential report, and the procedure for reporting sexual violence.

For more information, see The University of Tampa’s Title IX resources at and

To make a confidential report of sexual violence, please contact:
– The Victim’s Advocacy Hotline: (813) 257-3900
– Dickey Health & Wellness Center (wellness@ut.edu813.257.1877

– Health and Counseling Center (healthcenter@ut.edu813.253.6250


If there is a student who requires accommodations because of any disability, please go to the Academic Success Center in North Walker Hall for information regarding registering as a student with a disability. You may also call (813) 257-5757 or email Please feel free to discuss this issue with me, in private, if you need more information.


Cheating, plagiarism, copying and any other behavior that is contrary to University standards of behavior will not be tolerated.

Students caught violating any aspect of the University of Tampa’s Academic Integrity Policy will be penalized in all cases.  Penalty ranges from “0” on an assignment to “F” for the course without regard to a student’s accumulated points.  Students may also face expulsion.  It is the student’s responsibility to become familiar with the policies of the university regarding academic integrity and to avoid violating such policies.  Policy information is found at:

A Note About Plagiarism
Any deliberate borrowing of the ideas, terms, statements, or knowledge of others without clear and specific acknowledgment of the source is intellectual theft and is called plagiarism. It is not plagiarism to borrow the ideas, terms, statements, or knowledge of others if the source is clearly and specifically acknowledged. Students who consult such critical material and wish to include some of the insights, ideas, or statements encountered must provide full citations in an appropriate form. Failure to provide full citations on any assignment will result in a failing grade for the assignment and, potentially, additional penalties dependent upon the severity of the offense, including a failing grade for the course. 


Every student has the right to a comfortable learning environment where the open and honest exchange of ideas may freely occur.  Each student is expected to do his or her part to ensure that the classroom (and anywhere else the class may meet) remains conducive to learning.  This includes respectful and courteous treatment of all in the classroom.  According to the terms of the University of Tampa Disruption Policy, the professor will take immediate action when inappropriate behavior occurs.


In case of any adverse condition or situation which could interrupt the schedule of classes, each student is asked to access for information about the status of the campus and class meetings.  In addition, please refer to for announcements and other important information.  You are responsible for accessing this information.


Note: The professor reserves the right to make changes to this syllabus as necessary.


Please read each specified text before our class meets.

New readings are denoted in bold.

August 28 Introduction


August 30 Helen Nissenbaum, Privacy in Context, “Locating the Value in Privacy” (PDF on Blackboard)

Watch in Class: Glenn Greenwald, “Why Privacy Matters”, TED Talk


September 6 Samuel D. Warren & Louis D. Brandeis, “The Right to Privacy” (IE)

Charles Ess, “Privacy in the Electronic Global Metropolis?” (DME)


September 11 Charles Ess, “Privacy in the Electronic Global Metropolis?” (continued)

Tom Regan, “Introduction to Moral Reasoning” (IE)


September 13 Tom Regan, “Introduction to Moral Reasoning” (continued)

Virginia Held, “Feminist Transformations of Moral Theory” (IE)


September 18 Kathryn Haun & Eric J. Topol, “The Health Data Conundrum” (New York Times article on Blackboard)

Luciano Floridi, “What is Information Ethics?” (PDF on Blackboard)



September 20 Luciano Floridi, “What is Information Ethics?” (continued)

Watch in Class: Damon Horowitz, “We Need A Moral Operating System”, TED Talk



September 25 Batya Friedman, Peter H. Kahn, & Alan Borning, “Value Sensitive Design and Information Systems” (PDF on Blackboard)

Jamie Lincoln Kitman, “Google Wants Driverless Cars, but Do We?” (New York Times article on Blackboard)


September 27 Batya Friedman, Peter H. Kahn, & Alan Borning, “Value Sensitive Design and Information Systems” (continued)

“Should Your Driverless Car Hit a Pedestrian to Save Your Life?” (New York Times article on Blackboard)

In-Class Activity: MIT Moral Machine


October 2 Nick Bostrom & Eliezer Yudkowsky, “The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence” (PDF on Blackboard)



October 4 Annalee Newitz, “The Secret Lives of Google Raters” (Ars Technica UK article on Blackboard)

Nick Hopkins, “Revealed: Facebook’s Internal Rulebook on Sex, Terrorism, and Violence” (Guardian article on Blackboard)

Nick Hopkins, “Facebook Moderators: A Quick Guide to their Job and its Challenges” (Guardian article on Blackboard)



October 9 Anton Vedder, “Responsibilities for Information on the Internet” (PDF on Blackboard)

Samuel Gibbs, “Restaurant Owner Sues Google over Maps Listing ‘Sabotage’” (Guardian Article on Blackboard)


October 11 Raquel Benbunan-Fich, “The Ethics of Online Experimentation with Unsuspecting Users” (PDF on Blackboard)


October 16 Farhad Manjoo, “A Bright Side to Facebook’s Experiments on Its Users” (New York Times article on Blackboard)

Tal Yarkoni, “In Defense of Facebook” (PDF of Blogpost on Blackboard)


October 18 Anita Allen, “Privacy Isn’t Everything: Accountability as a Personal and Social Good” (IE)




October 25 Jacob R. Lilly, “National Security at What Price? A Look into Civil Liberty” (IE)


October 30 Jacob R. Lilly, “National Security at What Price? A Look into Civil Liberty” (continued)

Jason Stanley, “Propaganda in the History of Political Thought” (HPW)


November 1 Jason Stanley, “Propaganda Defined” (HPW)


November 6 Jason Stanley, “Propaganda Defined” (continued)

Safiya U. Noble, “Google and the Misinformed Public” (Chronicle of Higher Education article on Blackboard)

Henry Farrell, “Facebook and Falsehood” (Chronicle of Higher Education article on Blackboard)



November 8 Jack M. Balkin, “Digital Speech and Democratic Culture: A Theory of Freedom of Expression for the Information Society” (IE)

Peter Singer, “Free Speech and Fake News” (Project Syndicate article on Blackboard)



November 13 Charles Ess, “Friendship, Democracy, and Citizenship Journalism” (DME)


November 15 Jason Stanley, “Language as a Mechanism of Control” (HPW)


November 20 Jason Stanley, “Language as a Mechanism of Control” (continued)

Rowaida Abdelaziz, “Google Search is Doing Irreparable Harm to Muslims” (Huffington Post article on Blackboard)

Samuel Gibbs, “Google Alters Search Autocomplete to Remove ‘Are Jews Evil’ Suggestion” (Guardian article on Blackboard)




November 27 Kay Mathiesen, “Censorship and Access to Expression” (PDF on Blackboard)


November 29 David Rotman, “Technology and Inequality” (MIT Technology Review article on Blackboard)

Watch in Class: “Propaganda, Race and Mass Incarceration” with Dr. Jason Stanley


December 4 Charles Ess, “Still More Ethical Issues: Digital Sex and Games” (DME)


December 6 Review for Final Exam



December 11 FINAL EXAM: 3:45-5:45pm


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