On the eve of the 3rd Meeting of the International Center of Information Ethics – Latin America and the Caribbean Chapter, held on 20th and 21st of October, 2022, scholars and students from research groups Perspectivas Filosóficas em Informação – Perfil-i and Estudos Críticos em Informação, Tecnologia e Organização Social – Escritos, responsible by the organization of the event, worked together with guest speakers to write the Letter of Rio’s final version. The first draft was conceived by Professor Marco Schneider and Professor Arthur Coelho Bezerra, representatives of the Chapter since its creation in 2017. The following scholars took part in the final wording of the Letter: Rafael Capurro, Ana Regina Barros Rêgo Leal, Esteban Andrés Zunino, José Augusto Guimarães, Maximiliano Rodríguez Fleitas, Karina Olarte, Ariel Morán Reyes, Luciane de Fátima Beckman Cavalcante, Marielle de Moraes and Ricardo Pimenta.
The writing of Letter of Rio was suggested by the founder of ICIE, Rafael Capurro. Following the tradition of previous events, the Letter is a declaration of the Center’s principles and goals, now under the administration of Professors Schneider and Bezerra. The Letter of Rio’s content is related to the 3rd Meeting motto: Ethics and Information for social justice.
Letter of Rio
Broadly speaking, Information Ethics is a subfield of study which comprises Ethics as a Philosophy field dedicated to critical studies of morals, namely a set of formal or unspoken values which rules social relationships. Therefore, morals are understood as a sociohistorical phenomenon and subject to Ethics scrutiny, which may have normative inflections.
Information Ethics is interested in matters such as freedom of expression, allocation of responsibilities, intellectual honesty in producing and handling information and memory, caring about its historical, social and political dimensions, commitment to truth and public interest, right of access to information, the cultural bias of organization and also knowledge and information representation, informational privacy and autonomy, technological mediation, digitalization and datafication of life; information visibility, surveillance, provenance, relevance and credibility, among others. It also addresses the development of information professionals such as journalists, librarians, information scientists, archivists, museologists, publicists, coders etc.
With the development and worldwide spread of digital technologies of information and communication in societies in the last few decades, researchers in the Information Ethics field have given special attention to the effects, promises and risks that the new informational ecosystem boosts in social life spheres, including person-to-person relationships, education, scientific production and dissemination, politics, work, health, culture, entertainment, and the interlink among all of those spheres.
At the turn of the century, the early perspectives favored the ones who believed at the beginning of an “information society”, which promised a thriving, inclusive, democratic, plural world. Over the same period, several international declarations were written and signed by players committed to digital inclusion, with the aim the respect for cultural diversity, securing rights, and minorities' quality of life.
Nevertheless, such goals frequently turned into wishful thinking, maybe because the bidders were not able to act and argue beyond the market realm. It is known that the market does not necessarily oppose or support digital inclusion, cultural diversity, rights, or minorities’ quality of life if its dividend yields faster and richer than the competitors’. This is the market’s golden rule. After all, the market itself is not immoral, but a-moral. However, the more unregulated it becomes, the more this amorality turns into immorality, as long as the urge for bigger and faster profits aggravates the inequalities and the systemic contradictions that capitalism bears since its mercantilist and colonial origins, remarkably slave-based. Nowadays, this movement is crystallized in what UNESCO called desinfodemic – the mass dissemination of disinformation.
Without forsaking the objectives of ICIE and its partners, we comprehend that those goals are only to be fulfilled through in-depth study and the development of methodologies capable of fighting against the major side effect of the global process of digital inclusion: the networked digital disinformation (NDD). Led by an increasingly unregulated market, the NDD works on an infodemic scale, enhancing extremisms, corroding democracies, and promoting scientific negationism, which leads to dreadful consequences for education, the environment and public health. Furthermore, this process stimulates prejudices and causes anxiety, angst, burnout, depression, violence, persecution, slaughter and chaos.
To accomplish the stated above, we are at one with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the European Union 2022 Code of Practice on Disinformation. We also seek an emerging ethical and political horizon of a new poly-epistemic Enlightenment, supported by the idea that reason, justice and freedom are more complex and plastic than the historical Enlightenment supposed. However, those milestones invariably oppose mystification, injustice and oppression. Thus, we defend as principles and objectives of ICIE:
1 – The democratic and collective development of digital convergence regulation propositions that can promote the discussion about the structure of the disinformation scenario;
2 – The development of effective methodologies against monetization deriving from disinformation funding as part of online advertising and exploration of attention and subjectivities;
3 – The promotion of research from an intra and intercultural information ethics perspective that fosters the understanding of popular adoption to symbolic, value and affective constructions of an obscurantist type, hostile to facts and scientific explanation of reality, regarding cognitive authorities, in view of public enlightened and strengthened citizenship;
4 – The implementation of editorial actions aimed at communications and scientific dissemination related to the topics of the agenda;
5 – The theoretical and applied promotion of digital humanities, educommunication, critical media literacy, critical information literacy and various digital literacies, preferably in large-scale actions and with special attention to the new generations;
6 – The consolidation of a Latin American and Caribbean network of Information Ethics researchers and activists committed to the principles and goals of this Letter;
7 - The organic integration of the network with other social players in Latin America and the Caribbean, committed to the principles and goals of this Letter;
8 - The organic integration of the set of actors mentioned above with the other chapters of the International Center for Information Ethics, starting with the Global South;
9 - The strengthening of ICIE as a reference center for research, communication and scientific dissemination in the study and fight against misinformation, based in Rio School (Escola do Rio). The name was given by Rafael Capurro to ICIE’s core team based on Teaching and Research Coordination (COEPI) of the Brazilian Institute of Science and Technology Information (IBICT), formalized in this document by the new presidency of ICIE.