International Principles for Research Libraries on a Safe and Open Internet

Research libraries, along with their home institutions, provide access to the internet for students, faculty, researchers, and the broader communities we serve. As such, it is a key priority to ensure that users have unfettered access to information in a safe and open environment. As technology advances and governments around the world attempt to develop legislation to address these changes, there is a lack of consistency across nations on proposed  legislation. As libraries try to navigate legislative and regulatory proposals globally, members of the International Alliance of Research Library Associations (IARLA) stand behind the following principles, which will guide each IARLA member’s position and advocacy on internet speech and functions:

  • Facilitating access to content and providing platforms for third-party speech has been a core role of research libraries for centuries.
  • According to the United Nations, access to the internet is a human right, and many people access the internet through libraries.
  • The integrity of and long-term access to information is integral to research and the creation and preservation of knowledge.
  • Research libraries support a “safe, inclusive, and open online environment.”

In the context of these principles, in our geopolitical landscapes, IARLA holds that research libraries:

  • support the principle of net neutrality—that internet users should have the right to access and provide content and use online services as they wish. We support net neutrality rules, such as protecting internet users from practices like blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization.
  • support a balance between digital privacy, the right to be forgotten, and an individual’s right to privacy with others’ freedom of expression. We urge caution against the over-removal of content, especially through filters or AI, and we respect the integrity of the historical record.
  • rely on digital platform liability protections to fulfill their public service missions.
  • have policies to manage speech and to curtail harassment or hate speech.
  • are committed to representing the full diversity of the human experience. As such, we provide platforms for people to explore a range of perspectives as long as they are not discriminatory, personal attacks, or harassment.
  • acknowledge that algorithmic filters affect online content in many ways, and strive to use these tools in transparent and non-discriminatory ways.
  • facilitate and teach media and data literacy, toward a goal of improving access to reputable and verifiable information online.
  • support global research collaboration, which depends on an open and safe internet.
  • oppose anti-competitive and monopolistic practices that lead to restricting the flow of open information on the internet.
  • support LIBER’s public statement on the Digital Services Act that governments should “(i) acknowledge the unique position of universities and other research performing organisations in the provision of digital services and infrastructure directed towards the common good and (ii) provide for an overarching legal framework excluding university and research related repositories and corresponding infrastructures from market-oriented…legislation, in order to prevent any unintended collateral damage from current and future…legislation aimed at commercial players.”