Gambling with Laws and Ethics in Cyberspace

Gambling with Laws and Ethics in Cyberspace

Lee Gillam (University of Surrey, UK) and Anna Vartapetiance (University of Surrey, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6433-3.ch004
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The online world, referred to by some as cyberspace, offers a wide variety of activities: reading written content, interacting with others, engaging with multimedia and playing games of various kinds, and obtaining goods and services. However, many will ignore the written agreements and laws that govern these activities, and because of this, cyberspace can turn into a dangerous place. This chapter explores a small sample of legal and ethical issues that can arise in the interface between cyberspaces and real places for those not paying attention to such matters. The authors note how laws in the physical world remain applicable in the “virtual” world, requiring knowledge of jurisdiction, and discuss the potential for creating systems that protect the user from harm by embedding adherence to laws and providing support for ethics. The authors further explain how such embedding can work to address the complex legalities and potential need for intervention in addictive situations in online gambling.
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1. Introduction

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system…(Gibson, 1984, p.51)

The advent of “cyberspace” has led to traditional geographical boundaries being transcended. Cyberspace offers people the illusion that most things are available cheaply or for free, and all actions undertaken are acceptable everywhere. Sitting in front of a computer, a person accessing the internet is virtually relocated to a “generalized elsewhere” of distant places and “non-local” people (Jewkes, 2003). While the person inhabits this generalized everywhere, they may be incorrectly extending the rules and social norms that are applicable in their own physical location across the geographical boundaries, or believing there is a relaxation of regulations and restrictions. They may also be erroneously enlarging their personal security perimeter, acting under a false impression that the limit of communication is with the computer screen itself, or is restricted to specific intended set of interested people. In this generalized elsewhere, people can be whoever, whatever, and wherever they wish, presenting themselves and re-inventing themselves as they desire. Unfortunately, this also offers the opportunity for those with fewer scruples to pretend to be people who already exist, based on information they have managed to obtain from unsuspecting users who are under such illusions and who become susceptible to such problems.

A key difficulty for cyberspace users is in this rapid but undistinguished crossing of jurisdictions, often but not always country boundaries, that include the legal, ethical and religious, amongst others. For tourists in the physical world, there are often certain clear indications of when geographical boundaries have been crossed, and other symbols may identify such a difference. In cyberspace, one can rapidly move across boundaries of geography without ever being aware of the fact. This can create significant difficulties for software builders and internet users alike in understanding what applies, where it applies, when it applies, and, most difficult of all, why.

Over time, geographical entities have introduced, updated, replaced and even discarded laws that enforce or supplement societal and cultural norms. As technologies have emerged, lawmakers have attempted to keep pace. Unfortunately, reinterpreting through legal cases and through the crafting of new legislation where old was insufficiently encompassing can be awkward and appear ill-informed. During such processes, typically elongated if anything remotely useful is to emerge, the technology has usually moved on: the present pace of technological innovation is vastly outstripping the ability of the majority to keep up with new products, let alone for lawmakers to keep up with problems created by new products. If laws are found wanting, those developing such technologies have to make reference to ethics and professional standards while the gaps are closed, and must hope for the best outcomes when courts decide whether their use of new technologies is acceptable or not. The jurisdictional framing of laws introduces yet another issue: the illusion of the generalized everywhere is not reflected in any kind of generalized law. Cyberspace has no set of unified laws governing all actions, enabling the fight against the crimes, or for promoting the wellbeing of society and prevention of harm. There may be some degree of commonality in law, for example when European Union member states implement certain directives, but these can happen over varying time spans, and even the transfer to a national implementation may be considered incomplete (Ashford, 2010).

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