Responsibility Principles

Acting responsibly while in cyberspace is more than a good idea, it's essential. Without taking responsibility in your own hands you will find it extremely difficult to successfully utilize the Internet and impossible to fully benefit from computer technology. However, by following the principles of responsible computer use you can ensure that you are acting ethically and safely while maximizing the potential of new technology.

  1. Promote human dignity - While in cyberspace it may seem like you are interacting solely with computers. Do not fall into this trap. Although you don't come into contact with them, cyberspace is populated with people just like you. Rudeness, belligerence, and fraud may seem like faceless crimes when perpetrated through a computer, but they aren't. Crimes committed online are committed against human beings, not computers.

  2. Protect privacy rights - The Internet is a very free community, but this doesn't mean that others' personal ideas and/or files are free to view or use as your own. Do not attempt to gain access to restricted files.  If someone sends you an email by accident, return it. Do not reproduce copyrighted material without prior authorization. Do not attempt to crack passwords or crash computer systems. Treat the Internet community like it was your neighborhood and do not encroach upon the privacy rights of your neighbors. See the complete listing of software and intellectual property copyrights.

  3. Facilitate freedom of expression - When traveling the Information Superhighway you will eventually come across ideas that are contrary to your own. Chances are that you were originally attracted to the Internet because of its freely flowing information. Please understand that this free flow of information can not exist without a degree of tolerance from each of its users. If you tolerate the ideas of others, you will find the Internet community more apt to tolerate your own ideas.

  4. Avoid 'flaming' - If you ever find yourself the target of slanderous or offensive comments while online, don't return fire upon whomever insulted you. No matter how witty or successful your comments may seem, they will most likely miss their target and not affect your virtual enemy at all. It will be much more worthy of your time to move on to a different subject or find someone else to talk with, which you would have to do anyway after firing your counterattack. More information on flaming can be found within the Ethical section of RESCU and in the article entitled Core Rules of Netiquette.

  5. Welcome newcomers - You may consider yourself a 'Web Warrior' or an 'Internet Veteran', however the Internet has existed for less than a decade. The Information Superhighway is a toddler by cultural and industrial standards and we are all 'Newbies' of a varying degree of experience. Share the knowledge that you have accumulated with others whom are just getting started and the Internet community will blossom benefiting everyone.

  6. Maintain real life standards - The Internet is constantly referred to as a virtual community.  Don't mistake this definition to mean imaginary or make-believe. The Internet is composed of real life users just like yourself. It is as real as a phone call or a conversation made in person.  Allow the principles you use to guide your physical interactions with people to govern those made online.

  7. Know the Internet's limitations - At best, the Internet is a tool that enhances the relationships you currently have and provides an avenue to build new ones. The Internet can not and should not replace daily interaction with other people. Just as the television, or telephone shouldn't be one's only access to the outside world, the Internet shouldn't be considered the only source of information and interaction you need.

  8. Use computer resources responsibly - Computer labs are not technology enhanced playgrounds. They are tools designed to facilitate the academic needs of students. Don't spend time surfing the web or playing solitaire on a University computer when another student may need the computer to complete an assignment. Conserve computer and network resources so that they maybe used as they were intended. This way, when you have 20 minutes before class to finish a project worth 30% of your final grade, the computer you need will not be occupied by someone reading the latest 'news' at

  9. Take responsibility for your own safety - Information such as your home address, telephone, credit card or social security numbers, and personal passwords may be used to 'steal' your identity by creating credit card accounts or charging purchases to accounts which you are responsible for. Personal information should be guarded at all times. Never give billing or credit card information to individuals you are talking to online. Computer passwords should be carefully selected, updated regularly, and continuously protected. You can only hurt yourself by not taking steps to protect your personal information. For more facts about identity theft please visit the Safety section of RESCU and read about how to "Protect your reputation by..."

  10. Use common sense - This principle may seem terribly simple and it is, but this is a good thing.  Many times the most simple concepts are also the most useful. When deciding whether or not an online action is appropriate, consider the best and worst possible outcomes and weigh the likelihood of those possibilities within your decision. If there is a chance that what you are doing or thinking of doing will get you in trouble, don't do it!