Self-Censorship and Terrorism (Hosting Taliban material)

British Library declines Taliban archive over terror law fears

From the BBC:

The British Library has declined to store a large collection of Taliban-related documents because of concerns regarding terrorism laws.

The collection, related to the Afghan Taliban, includes official newspapers, maps and radio broadcasts.

Academics have criticised the decision saying it would be a valuable resource to understand the ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan.

The library said it feared it could be in breach of counter-terrorism laws.

It said it had been legally advised not to make the material accessible.

The Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006 make it an offence to “collect material which could be used by a person committing or preparing for an act of terrorism” and criminalise the “circulation of terrorist publications”.

The Home Office declined to comment saying it was a matter for library.

Of course the Home Office has no comment. The more it can bully people and institutions into self-censorship the better.

A number of academics have pointed out the absurdity of the decision. But there is some risk and most institutions are “risk adverse,” which also explains why governments tremble at the thought “terrorist publications.”

While governments and some libraries try to outdo each other in terms of timidity, the rest of us should be willing to take that risk. Take that risk for freedom of inquiry and the sharing of knowledge. Putting a finger in the eye of timid governments and institutions strikes me as a good reason as well.

No promises but perhaps individuals offering to and hosting parts of the Taliban collection will shame timid institutions into hosting it and similar collections (like the alleged torrents of pro-Islamic State tweets).

I am willing to host some material from the Taliban archive. It doesn’t have to be the interesting parts (which everyone will want).

Are you?

PS: No, I’m not a Taliban sympathizer, at least in so far as I understand what the Taliban represents. I am deeply committed to enabling others to reach their own conclusions based on evidence about the Taliban and others. We might agree and we might not. That is one of the exciting (government drones read “dangerous”) aspects of intellectual freedom.

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