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An analysis of Principle 1.2 in the new ACM Code Of Ethics

by   Christoph Becker, et al.

The new ACM Code of Ethics is a much-needed update, but introduced changes to a central principle that have not been discussed widely enough. This commentary aims to contribute to an improvement of the ethical standards we want computing professionals to aspire to by analyzing how changes introduced to Principle 1.2, Avoid Harm, affect the Code as a whole. The analysis shows that the principle is now internally inconsistent in structure and externally inconsistent with Principle 2.3. It condones intentional harm too broadly and does not oblige those responsible to seek external justification. The existing Principle 2.3 clearly suggests that Principle 1.2 is unethical. As a consequence, the change introduced to Principle 1.2 in the new Code of Ethics nullifies the good intention of the code; counteracts the many good changes introduced in all three drafts; and places the ACM in a dangerous moral position. This short paper explains why and recommends concrete actions.


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