Shopping Samaritan

 Floridi’s “shopping Samaritan” points to a central distinction in ethics – namely, between primary but minimal levels of obligations and duties vis-à-vis what philosophers like to call “supererogatory” obligations. Judith Jarvis Thomson specifically discussed a “Good Samaritan Ethics” to mark out those ethical choices that go above and beyond our usual expectations and requirements – as exemplified in the story of the Good Samaritan in the Christian Scriptures (Luke 10:30–7). But while such choices may be exemplary, even heroic, we recognize at the same time that they are admirable precisely because they go beyond our everyday expectations and norms.

In light of this distinction, we can thus revise question 1: are you morally obliged to buy a Fairphone – and/or is buying a Fairphone instead a morally exemplary act, one that we can endorse for those who can afford it, but one that we cannot argue is ethically obligatory for all of us, e.g., students and others on limited budgets?

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Again, your responses here may vary somewhat, depending on the initial ethical frameworks you take up.

(For a more comprehensive ethical analysis of the Fairphone, see Ess in press.)

Digital media and democratization: First considerations In the early 1990s, the emerging internet and then the World Wide Web were frequently accompanied by fervent hopes and claims that these technologies would – perhaps inevitably – lead to greater democracy around the globe. Throughout the early 2000s, there were heartening examples supporting this optimism. The most dramatic examples were the Arab Springs of 2011 – the pro- democracy movements begun in Tunisia and then spreading to Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, and Syria. These movements were initially heralded as “Facebook revolutions” or “Twitter revolutions” precisely because of their central reliance on social media. But, as with the failed 2009 protests against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (protests dramatically fueled by a video clip showing the young philosophy student Neda Agha Soltan being shot by government security forces, a clip that went viral on YouTube and Twitter with the hashtag #neda), the Arab Springs soon collapsed into the Arab Winters. That is, apart from the exception of Tunisia, the authoritarian regimes in these countries remained intact – if not all the more repressive and in control of their populations, thanks especially to the “total surveillance” made possible by these same social media and related technologies. More broadly, the 2018 report of “freedom on the net” starkly concludes that:

Disinformation and propaganda disseminated online have poisoned the public sphere. The unbridled collection of personal data has broken down traditional notions of privacy. And a cohort of countries is moving toward digital authoritarianism by embracing the Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance systems. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2018.