By: Sonny Zulhuda *
The tremendous participation of companies in technological race and in exploiting the cyberspace is often marked with over-excitement and the sense of lawlessness. This is not true if one regards the cyberspace as a space without rule. The fact remains that there are rules in cyberspace just as people have rules in the real physical world.
When it comes to the notion of corporate social responsibility (‘CSR’), the matter may become more confusing: what kind of responsibility companies could have, and to whom they owe such responsibility. Assume that an online business entity does not have a physical presence – not physically registered, therefore not legally incorporated: does it assume a corporate status to subject it to the CSR? As for the incorporated ones, question may arise as to what responsibilities they bear when embarking in the online environment and to whom they are owed.
Indeed, the discussion of CSR in the cyberspace era is duly warranted because cyber world is, more often than not, misunderstood as somehow law-free and ethics-free. This may lead corporations to believe that they can do so many things in cyberspace which are otherwise prohibited in physical world. Hence CSR could be for them another myth of cyberspace, and as a result, online consumer protection could be negated, law compliance ignored, and communal interests were left behind. All what they can do is to gain on others’ pain.
This paper seeks to establish this relationship; that CSR does exist in the cyberspace. Companies that conduct their commercial activities within or through the cyberspace shall remain committed about their social responsibility, amid in different context. There are rules that companies must live by even when they are totally online. Even though the rules may vary in different jurisdictions, the ethical principles would remain universal. And some of them had even been given a universal platform such as corporate behavior on data security and privacy protection. It is this fundamental understanding that this paper wish to create.
*) This paper abstract was presented the 6th International Conference of Corporate Social Responsibility, 11-14 June 2007, Kuala Lumpur.