Code 2018 discussion - Start here!


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Code 2018 discussion guide

This post describes how to use this site to discuss proposed changes to the ACM’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

Current status

Draft 3 is has been posted at and in the CACM. also contains an annotated diff between drafts 2 and 3, and a link to the ACM survey (ACM members only) about the Code.

How to contribute

There is a discussion thread for each section of the current draft. Please select the appropriate thread from the table of contents below to make comments related to that section of the Code.

The most useful feedback you can provide is revised wording of the proposed language, along with a rationale supporting it.

Important: Be sure to also comment on sections that you particularly like, and that you want not to be changed!

For more info

Information about the task force membership, revision process, and diffs between various versions of the Code may be found at the Code 2018 site.

Table of contents

About the Code 2018 category


There is a typo in the second sentence of the Current Status. assembly s/b assembling


I briefly read through the code and noted that nothing in there really indicates under some circumstances it would be ethical to object to or leave a company that is involving you in a project that could cause harm. A search for misuses of technology came up with Gizmodo’s list"The 5 Most Evil Things Tech Companies Helped Happen". It occurred to me that I should look over the code of ethics to see if any of these things are covered, and it appears that there are some holes in the code. As it stands, for example, a worker for IBM during WWII supplying the NAZIs with tools specifically developed to efficiently round up torture and execute innocent civilians would have no conflict with the code of ethics as it stands, yet that is the first item recognized as evil things done in the history of computing in a quick search, and there is no question that it led to the suffering and death of many innocent civilians. Should there not be several layers of ethical rules that would at least point out that continuing to work on such projects would be unethical? I propose that some ethical rule(s) be added to address this sort of scenario. It’s too vague to say things have to be for the public good as the NAZIs propagandized that everything they were doing was for the good of the public.


I suggest the word “code” be replaced with “Guidelines”, and “ethics” replaced with “professional conduct.” The document would then be called ACM Guidelines for Professional Conduct. I wrote and received acceptance by the ACM Council of the first ethics document for ACM back in the 1980s. I had a strong battle with the Council that ended with having to make this change. If ACM were to adopt a code with application of penalties, it could require a change in ACM’s United States tax status and an extensive procedure assuring due process and lawyer representation to remove a member for unethical conduct. The only time I know that we came close to having to do this was when a member was convicted of a computer crime. I was able to get him to voluntarily and quietly terminate his membership. I suggest you contact the IEEE legal counsel about their ethics experience.

Why is acm doing this [now]? (code of ethics ... or whatever it is)

I disagree with most of this. I’m not opposed to possibly changing the name, but there does need to be some kind of penalties associated with violation of the code that includes termination of membership.

The ACM needs a Code of Ethics that has some kind of punishment built in. Every other major professional organization (including the IEEE) does. Part of the value in ACM membership comes from the fact that stating that one is a member in good standing has meaning. People who have been found to not meet a minimum standard of professional behavior need to be removed from membership.

I believe that if people who are dishonest, who discriminate, who don’t respect privacy or confidentiality, who don’t work to improve the public understanding and perception of the field are allowed to be ACM members, that significantly devalues membership for me. If someone is known to be a member is conducting themselves in this way, there should be a method to report them and have their actions reviewed.

All of that said, I also think that there needs to be two codes. One needs to be clear and enforceable and commitment to it needs to be a requirement of membership. My understanding is that this code is supposed to be that. It’s not, at least in its current form. There is also a need for an aspirational code of ethics for the computing profession that applies more broadly than ACM members and can provide a starting point for education and discussion. I believe that already exists in the form of the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (however, that code has not been revised in almost a decade). These two codes should not be combined into one.


Mr. Owen didn’t finish completing his proposal. Who will make the ethics
violation decisions, and will ACM protect them from litigation? What kind of
procedures will be organized to convict and penalize violators while
protecting their right to due process, privacy, etc?

Donn Parker


Not only does the current Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct state that gross misconduct is cause for termination of membership, this is common across other professional organizations. The ACM also has an enforcement policy that addresses how to bring about complaints of ethics violations, how the ACM Council reviews complaints and takes appropriate actions if necessary, and maintains confidentiality and privacy.

Would it be appropriate to review this process? Perhaps. But that’s beyond the code of ethics itself.

With respect to this code, if it is to be the requirement that all members adhere to it, the code must be free from controversy and enforceable. Looking through this code, it is neither in its current state.


I applaud the draft. If you come to this cold it may not be read all the way through. I think it needs some sort of quotable tag line easily distributed and used to bring people to this detailed Code. An appetizer before the entre.

If the bottom line is to improve overall behavior, then a two prong approach may hit a wider audience and increase the number of people who want to find this and read it.

I offer: "The ACM stands for the creation and application of computer technology to better mankind through the legal and ethical Principles of our Code."

I ask the question, "Is it better for society to have a few people follow every rule, or have most people following some of the rules ?"

Thank you for this opportunity to participate.



Code of Ethics is an expression to distinguish “right to act” and “right action”. IMHO, this is the beginning for writing every “Code of Ethics” including this for the ACM.