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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Threats to Academic Freedom

Francesca Minerva
Bioethics, (2014): 28(4); 157–162

Here is an excerpt:

In the first few days following online publication, we were deluged with an average of 30 death threats and hate emails a day. Many blogs and online newspapers reported the news and thousands of Twitter, Facebook and Google+ users shared the links and commented on the articles.

The discussion, largely in public rather than in academic journals, did not focus exclusively on the arguments of the paper but also on the authors. Perhaps attesting to an underlying current of sexism, the personal attacks were largely directed at me: I am a young woman and young women are supposed to have babies, not to argue in favour of after-birth abortion. This disparity got to the point that some newspapers even neglected to mention that the paper was co-authored, indicating me as the only author.

The different treatment of Singer’s and Tooley’s work on the same topic on the one hand,
and our paper on the other shows how the Web has changed the way academic ideas circulate. It is useful to highlight at least three aspects of this change:

1) The Internet has significantly speeded up the dissemination of academic ideas to the general public. Up to twenty years ago, access to academic work was almost exclusively through academic books and hard copy academic journals. Nowadays, many academic  journals maintain an online version which is easily and quickly accessible. Journalists can read academic papers and write a piece for an online newspaper, which may be shared by millions of users on other websites, or Blogs, and social network sites.

The entire paper is here.