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Janet should not censor students

Eva Pascoe's column on the restrictions placed on certain forms of expression by the Joint Academic Network ("The things Janet won't tell you", 21 September) is disturbing. It seems to me that one of the major functions of an academic computer network such as Janet is to encourage debate, not just between academics but between students.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought university was about encouraging debate and giving students the chance to forward their views on whatever issue engages their interest, regardless of how controversial those views may be. If students are deemed too sensitive to handle, let alone argue against, a few strongly voiced opinions on Janet, then as Pascoe quite rightly said, we will get the underdeveloped graduates we deserve.

In my experience, the Net is the ideal place to develop debating skills. Lively debates often involve a clash of strongly held opinions and, inevitably, the adrenaline will flow as passions are aroused. If this is deemed to be unacceptable because it may cause "anxiety", then I fear for academic freedom and for free speech.

David Amis

kam76@dial.pipex.com

Eva Pascoe draws the correct assumptions on how "the art of censorship" is practiced today on the Internet (Network, 21 September). Illustrating how a Kurdish Freedom Movement web site was removed by a university server recently because of "pragmatic" reasons, she rightly draws the conclusion that technical considerations can often mask moral opposition to "problematic" content.

This is a trend that is on the increase, with more and more web sites being pulled for excuses of "copyright infringement or contractual obligations", which, in fact, turn out to be Internet Service Providers acting on their perceived moral obligations to protect us from the "excesses" of the Internet.

Pascoe sees this as being problematic for university students being able to develop their critical faculties where anything "difficult" is removed. Unfortunately, this is not just an issue for students, but for all of us - unless you want the web to become like Channel 5!

Martyn Perks

martynp@easynet.co.uk

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