Freedom of expression and the regulation of Internet access in academia

Dag Elgesem


The paper discusses the ethical issues raised by decisions to deny access to some discussion groups on the internet, like The central thesis of the paper is that it is possible to regulate such access without getting into conflict with the values that justifies freedom of expression on campus. The question whether it is right to restrict access to certain internet services has to be considered not only in the light of norms that are internal to ‘cybersocity’. The norms of the institution which provide the service, i.e. the university in this case, must also be taken into account. It is then pointed out that the norms of interaction in cyberspace and those of the scientific community are very similar. Various strategies for the justification of freedom of speech are discussed and applied to the context of the university. It is argued that while the university has a duty to protect the freedom of argued positions, it also has a duty to foster other values in its students, like tolerance and the value of argumentation and intellectual honesty. Both the value of free speech and the value of tolerance and argumentation can be protected, it is argued. The university should allow all points of view that are defended by open arguments, but deny those that are offensive by virtue of their form.