Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 133–151 | Cite as

Internet Neutrality: Ethical Issues in the Internet Environment

  • Matteo TurilliEmail author
  • Antonino Vaccaro
  • Mariarosaria Taddeo
Research Article


This paper investigates the ethical issues surrounding the concept of Internet neutrality focusing specifically on the correlation between neutrality and fairness. Moving from an analysis of the many available definitions of Internet neutrality and the heterogeneity of the Internet infrastructure, the common assumption that a neutral Internet is also a fair Internet is challenged. It is argued that a properly neutral Internet supports undesirable situations in which few users can exhaust the majority of the available resources or in which specific types of applications and services cannot be developed or properly deployed. The solution offered to these shortcomings is based on (1) an environmental approach to the Internet, (2) the four guiding principles of Floridi’s Information Ethics and (3) a principle called ‘Information Diversity’. The paper is divided into six sections. Section 1 briefly presents the debate concerning the concepts of network and Internet neutrality. Section 2 poses a general and unifying definition of Internet neutrality based on the critical assessment of several domain-specific approaches to the problem of neutrality. Section 3 is dedicated to the analysis of the relationship between Internet neutrality and the ethical principle of fairness. Section 4 introduces Floridi’s Information Ethics, the definition of Information Diversity and an analysis of how they can be used to address the limitations of Internet neutrality. Section 5 summarises the ethics of Internet neutrality and Information Diversity defining their relationship. Section 6 reviews the arguments presented in the paper clarifying the foundational role played by Information Diversity and Information Ethics in Internet policy-making activity.


Network neutrality Internet neutrality Computer ethics 



An earlier version of this paper has been presented at CEPE09, Corfu, Greece. We are very grateful for all the valuable comments and useful suggestions offered by the conference attendees. The authors would like also to thank the three referees chosen by the editorial board of the journal ‘Philosophy and Technology’. Their comments were insightful and sincerely aimed at further developing our paper. They are responsible only for the improvements, not for any remaining mistakes.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matteo Turilli
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Antonino Vaccaro
    • 3
  • Mariarosaria Taddeo
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Oxford e-Research CentreUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Information Ethics GroupUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  3. 3.IESE Business School, BarcelonaMadridSpain
  4. 4.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of HertfordshireHertfordshireUK
  5. 5.Uehiro CentreUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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