Network Working Group Internet Activities Board (IAB)
Request for Comments: 1087 January 1989
Ethics and the Internet
Status of this Memo
This memo is a statement of policy by the Internet Activities Board
(IAB) concerning the proper use of the resources of the Internet.
Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
At great human and economic cost, resources drawn from the U.S.
Government, industry and the academic community have been assembled
into a collection of interconnected networks called the Internet.
Begun as a vehicle for experimental network research in the mid-
1970's, the Internet has become an important national infrastructure
supporting an increasingly widespread, multi-disciplinary community
of researchers ranging, inter alia, from computer scientists and
electrical engineers to mathematicians, physicists, medical
researchers, chemists, astronomers and space scientists.
As is true of other common infrastructures (e.g., roads, water
reservoirs and delivery systems, and the power generation and
distribution network), there is widespread dependence on the Internet
by its users for the support of day-to-day research activities.
The reliable operation of the Internet and the responsible use of its
resources is of common interest and concern for its users, operators
and sponsors. Recent events involving the hosts on the Internet and
in similar network infrastructures underscore the need to reiterate
the professional responsibility every Internet user bears to
colleagues and to the sponsors of the system. Many of the Internet
resources are provided by the U.S. Government. Abuse of the system
thus becomes a Federal matter above and beyond simple professional
IAB Statement of Policy
The Internet is a national facility whose utility is largely a
consequence of its wide availability and accessibility.
Irresponsible use of this critical resource poses an enormous threat
to its continued availability to the technical community.
The U.S. Government sponsors of this system have a fiduciary
responsibility to the public to allocate government resources wisely
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RFC 1087 Ethics and the Internet January 1989
and effectively. Justification for the support of this system
suffers when highly disruptive abuses occur. Access to and use of
the Internet is a privilege and should be treated as such by all
users of this system.
The IAB strongly endorses the view of the Division Advisory Panel of
the National Science Foundation Division of Network, Communications
Research and Infrastructure which, in paraphrase, characterized as
unethical and unacceptable any activity which purposely:
(a) seeks to gain unauthorized access to the resources of the
(b) disrupts the intended use of the Internet,
(c) wastes resources (people, capacity, computer) through such
(d) destroys the integrity of computer-based information,
(e) compromises the privacy of users.
The Internet exists in the general research milieu. Portions of it
continue to be used to support research and experimentation on
networking. Because experimentation on the Internet has the
potential to affect all of its components and users, researchers have
the responsibility to exercise great caution in the conduct of their
work. Negligence in the conduct of Internet-wide experiments is both
irresponsible and unacceptable.
The IAB plans to take whatever actions it can, in concert with
Federal agencies and other interested parties, to identify and to set
up technical and procedural mechanisms to make the Internet more
resistant to disruption. Such security, however, may be extremely
expensive and may be counterproductive if it inhibits the free flow
of information which makes the Internet so valuable. In the final
analysis, the health and well-being of the Internet is the
responsibility of its users who must, uniformly, guard against abuses
which disrupt the system and threaten its long-term viability.
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IAB – Ethics and the Internet – January 1989