Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chairperson

Robert Main, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joan Woolfrey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Matthew Pierlott, Ph.D.


This project explores the burgeoning philosophical issue of applied ethics in digital (online) spaces. Primarily, as seen in Part 2, it is concerned with discussing the issue of freedom of speech online, and how interactions between individuals can sometimes cause harm. While currently the Internet is unrestricted or mostly free in terms of communication, it may need some boundaries in terms of how far freedom of speech can extend. This is also highly dependent on the given platform, as private companies hold their users to differing standards. At this point, virtue ethics is explored as a possible tool to aid users in growing as virtuous or otherwise more ethical individuals in their communications online. Simply forcing harsher rules upon individuals online in terms of behavioral restrictions most likely would not work in a meaningful way, when we consider the current environments of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and 4Chan. Ethical relativism in those situations isn’t beneficial either, but ethical pluralism may also help understand these different environments in a more cohesive way. In Part 3, utilitarianism is explored as an applicable theory when considering the issue of online shaming to understand whether or not it is actually ethically beneficial or overall more harmful to the individuals involved in it, and a meaningful connection between utilitarianism and virtue ethics is explored as a fruitful way to proceed on this issue.