Tangled in a web of regulation on the net

October 28, 2005

The Times Higher examines how some countries restrict freedom on the internet

Academics in most countries take the web and unfettered e-mail access for granted. They exchange ideas and information, freely interspersed with personal opinions, across institutional and national boundaries. And the internet's vast array of information is a natural habitat they are free to explore.

But such freedom is envied by academics and students in states where the authorities frown on free expression and are increasingly able to monitor and regulate access to e-mail, the web and mobile phones.

In these countries, academics' ability to communicate with colleagues elsewhere in the world is a clear inhibition of their academic freedom.

Natalie Nicora of the Network for Education and Academic Rights based at London South Bank University said: "Internet use has grown and has enhanced access and circulation of information in a way unthinkable a decade ago.

"But governments in some countries are continuing to control, and deny, access to the internet. The lack of internet freedom in these states reflects the attitude that governments have towards academic freedom.

Denying scholars and students access to the internet, or censoring it, curtails the circulation of information, contacts and knowledge that is the foundation of what we have to come to understand as academic freedom."

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