Is it moral to reveal the truth by illegal means?

Group 14


Hackers are commonly seen nowadays with high abilities in computers. So, they can easily hack into certain areas to capture information they need. Assume that one hacker illegally hacked into the database of a factory and found that it discharges polluted water beyond standards. Sooner, the hacker decided to publish this fact to the public. 

In this situation, it can be foreseen that the factory will probably face challenges from the public and media. It can be closed if things go more seriously so that a large amount of stuff can lose their jobs. 

The government needs to solve the problem of unemployment. Besides, more rules and laws should be set up to restrict or punish hackers which is required to maintain a stable society. 

But the polluted water will be controlled, and it will no longer influence the local citizens. 

The hacker himself will probably be famous among the public but will also likely face lawsuits. 

Option for action:

  • Reveal the truth
  • Do not reveal

Debate under opposite judgements:

View1: it is moral for the hacker to reveal the truth by illegal means

Statement analysis:

To judge this case objectively, the factory has caused severe pollution. It cannot be solved until the hacker exposes it.  As far as the results of the exposure are concerned, the factory will pay the due price. This indicates the hacker has made a justice decision. The local environment and the life of citizen will be improved. No doubt this will arouse public justice and virtue. In the future, more and more people will participate in activities against illegal companies to build a good social environment.

The behavior of this hacker conforms to virtue ethics. When he found the undercover, he bravely revealed the truth and helped others to avoid the pollution. All this stems from his good characters and great natures such as courage, honesty and kind. These virtues determine that his behavior is moral. What’s more, when we stand on the hacker’s side, as ethical people, we will make the same choice.

According to act-utilitarianism mentioned by (Prevos 2004), it’s required to promote those acts which will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In this situation, the behavior of the hacker will raise his reputation and bring him happiness. Although the company losses and unemployment of stuff cause some problems, the legitimate rights and interests of the local citizens are safeguarded. Meanwhile, he brings happiness and health to the residents of the area out of the impact of water pollution. For the whole society, the justice actions satisfy yearning and belief from the people for justice. In the long run, justice will develop, and the general mood of society will be better. If no people have the courage to reveal the truth, more and more illegal actions will unscrupulously occur in this society so that virtue and order will be destroyed. It is obvious that happiness is overweight than pain to follow the Greatest Happiness Principle. Hence, the behavior of revealing is moral. 

For duty ethics, the hacker helps residents with his obligations and responsibilities, the exposure can also be a sign of responsibility. Most people believe that it is ethical to help others. Moreover, the hacker helps others due to his good will which is a significant point of Kantian theory. 

In conclusion, from the above points that the action is ethical

View2: It is immoral for the hacker to reveal the truth by illegal means

Statement Analysis:

Although the hacker might be right at revealing the black curtain of the factory. It is not a good behavior to illegally hack into factories’ classified documents. It is commonly deemed to be moral or justice to reveal the dark to the light, but it is not allowed applying illegal means.

Analyzing this situation in a descriptive way, due to the media storm, the distortion of fact could lead to more enthusiasts in hacking. In the future, maintenance of network security will cost more. All in all, it is not a moral behavior to hack illegally and not responsible to expose this intrusion behavior to the media to inspire more hacking events.

To judge this case with normative thinking, illegal hacking to other factories’ classified documents is not a normative behavior in the view of law. Although the factory is also doing immoral discharging over-polluted water. There should be a better normative way to reveal the truth. 

Referring to the virtue ethics, it emphasizes the character and virtue of a person rather than doing one’s duty or acting in order to bring good results (Athanassoulis 2016). As for the hacker, he might be a justice person for his bravely revealing the black certain. But he did hack in this factory with selfish motivation and did not respect the privacy of the factory. So, this hacker could be a selfish person, who ignores the restraints of the law in order to get his own benefits.  So, obviously the hacker does not conform to the virtue ethics.

According to rule-utilitarianism (Nathanson 2017), utility can only be maximized by setting up a moral code which contains rules. Once the rule is determined, it can be used to judge individual action. In this situation, the hacker broke the rules and stole information. After that, more enthusiasts will be interested in hacking. It can cause instability problems to the society which may reduce the utility of the whole society. Therefore, it does not conform to the rule-utilitarianism.

The duty ethics focuses on whether duty has been taken. By normative judgement, the hacker did not take his duty to be a law-abiding person. Though he might take the responsibility to reveal the truth to the public. As a result, he cannot charge for the insecurity in the hacker trend that might be brought after this case.

From above points, the action of the hacker is immoral.

References (Chicago):

Athanassoulis, Nafsika. 2016. “Virtue Ethics | Internet Encyclopedia Of Philosophy”. Iep.Utm.Edu.

Nathanson, S., 2017. Utilitarianism, Act And Rule | Internet Encyclopedia Of Philosophy. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 March 2020].

Prevos, Peter. 2004. “Act And Rule Utilitarianism | Introduction To Ethics”. Courses.Lumenlearning.Com.

52 thoughts on “Is it moral to reveal the truth by illegal means?

  1. A good article, with good use of ethical theories to support and oppose the issue.

    For me, the heart of the issue is what were the hacker’s motives.
    Did they hack into the factory’s systems because they suspected pollution OR did they hack in for another reason and discovered the pollution as a consequence?

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