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University Press Group Decries Censorship

April 10, 2018
 
 

The Association of University Presses has issued a statement urging scholarly publishers to refuse requests from foreign governments to restrict digital access to content.

The statement follows several high-profile cases in which scholarly publishers restricted access to certain content in China. Cambridge University Press briefly blocked access in China to more than 300 articles in the journal The China Quarterly before reversing course and restoring access to the articles, most of which were on subjects like the massacre at Tiananmen Square, the Cultural Revolution, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tibet.

The scholarly publisher Springer Nature has also blocked access to journal articles on sensitive subjects in China. Springer has defended the decision to limit access to certain content in mainland China by saying that if it didn’t take the step, it ran the risk of having all its content blocked there.

“Because of the increasingly digital nature of scholarly communications, requests to restrict access to specific elements of a larger digital collection within a given market seem likely to become a more common form of attempts at government censorship,” the Association of University Presses said in its new statement. “AUPresses encourages university presses generally to withhold their consent to any such request, whether made directly or via a third-party aggregator, even if doing so results in the unavailability of the entire digital collection within that market. Scholarly integrity mandates that scholars and students accessing digital content encounter the same body of content, regardless of their geographic location. Additionally, even when digital access to content is available at increasingly granular levels (e.g., a journal article, a book chapter), any bowdlerization of a curated collection of scholarship (e.g., a journal issue, an edited volume) does damage to the editorial work invested in the construction of that collection. Acquiescence to government requests to restrict access inevitably would produce a disfigurement of the scholarly record.”

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