Information on Potentially Harmful Content


What harmful or challenging content might you encounter on our Digital Library?

For example, you may encounter language or content that is

  • ableist
  • classist
  • colonialist
  • homophobic
  • misogynistic
  • racist
  • transphobic
  • xenophobic

Most often with our collections this type of content occurs as outdated terminology or attitudes in historical material, but there are also more contemporary records where creators may express discriminatory views. Sometimes the language itself is not overtly offensive but the ideas and attitudes presented are harmful, which can make this content more difficult to identify and flag. We recognise that what constitutes offensive content is not necessarily the same for everyone and that you may access potentially harmful material that we are not yet aware of.

Why do we provide access to potentially harmful material?

We collect, preserve and provide access to material to facilitate teaching, learning and research at LSE and beyond. We do not exclude material because of the ideas or opinions expressed within the content. The collections we make available may include biased or offensive language or reveal attitudes that reflect the views of their creators and the period in which they were created. We seek to balance the preservation of this history with sensitivity to how these materials are presented and perceived.

How are staff working to address potentially harmful content in our Digital Library?

We believe we have a duty to curate our collections responsibly and to take measures where appropriate to minimise offence. Please note that this does not mean altering any original material or removing collections or records from public access. 

Staff aim to describe material in a respectful and inclusive way without erasing or hiding its problematic history. Where we are aware that harmful content exists in a collection, we will use plain language to inform users about the presence and origin of the content. Alternatively, it may be more appropriate to place an advisory warning on groups of records, to prepare researchers for the possibility that they might encounter content they find offensive.

How can you help us to identify potentially harmful content?

We are mindful that digital access pathways can distance a user from a sensitive, supportive and informed access experience and we encourage you to contact us at about any potentially harmful content in our collections. Your feedback can help us to better understand our collections and improve how this content is made available.