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Digital law & ethics Cheat Sheet by

The difference between laws and ethics, legal and ethical standards.

Prohib­ition and permission

Rules are everyw­here. Games have rules, sports have rules, schools and workplaces have rules. They help us agree on how to get along and keep things fair. Some rules prohibit things; those things are not allowed—you must not do them. Some rules permit things; those things are allowed—you can do them.

Grammar: Permission vs. prohib­ition


Example: Prohib­ition vs. permission

Why is it prohib­ited?

Recording video inside a cinema during a movie
...bec­ause: The video might be uploaded to the Internet, and then fewer people would pay to see the movie in theatres
Recording a private conver­sation without asking permission
...bec­ause: The other person might talk about personal, private or secret inform­ation that should not be repeated to others
Sharing video of a fight between two students
...bec­ause: The video shows violence and may show bad language; it may upset some people; it may have a bad effect on the lives of the two students if the video stays online
Sharing a link to a website with violent or hateful content
...bec­ause: The website may encourage violence or hate towards certain people or groups of people; people could be hurt or killed; it may be upsetting to many people

Sharing photos without permission

Why should you always ask for permission before sharing a photo of someone?

Once a photo is posted online, other people can copy and share it easily. They might share it in ways that it wasn't meant to be shared.

Imagine a girl who shares a cute photo of herself with someone. Then, imagine that person shares it online to show friends the cute girl they're talking to. Then, imagine those friends share it to a "­pretty girls" page where thousands of people comment on how she looks. Then, imagine all of her friends find out...

Sharing personal or private things without asking for permission can ruin someone's life!

Example: Sharing photos without permission


Laws vs. ethics

(adj.: legal) Rules and regula­tions that have specific conseq­uences and penalties if they are violated (broken). Generally made by instit­utions, e.g. govern­ments, schools...
(adj.: ethical) Social guidelines based on moral principles and values that teach us how to be good people. Generally made by people, commun­ities, society...

Examples of laws

Copyright law is a type of law that protects the rights of the person or group that creates something.
Traffic law controls the movement of vehicles on busy city roads.
Criminal law concerns acts that hurt people like stealing from them, injuring them, or killing them.
Germany has a strong anti-hate speech law that prohibits the act of publicly inciting hatred against certain types of people.

Some prohibited activities online

Insulting or harrassing other people online, e.g. on social media or in an online chat group.
Posting fake news
Sharing inform­ation that is not true, but looks believ­able.
Posting hate speech
Posting messages that promote or incite hatred towards a person or a group of people.
Taking something created by someone else and claiming that you created it.
Copyright infrin­gement
Copying or sharing something created by someone else without getting permission to copy or share it.


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