Who would have thought that in 2018 it would be deemed controversial to uphold the principle of free speech? Whatever else the events of this year have taught us, it is now clear that the fundamental human right to express oneself as one sees fit is under threat. With both major political parties supporting further hate-speech legislation and varying degrees of press regulation, and with Silicon Valley tech giants routinely censoring their users, the time is ripe seriously to consider how we might retaliate against the creeping authoritarianism of our age.
Those who were active in the civil-rights movements of the ‘New Left’ in the Sixties and Seventies understood that free speech is the linchpin of all other struggles for equality. But today it is mostly well-intentioned activists on the left who are calling on the state to constrict the Overton window. Worse still, in a world in which social media have become the de facto public square, and online platforms are controlled by powerful likeminded CEOs, we are left with the paradoxical phenomenon of self-identified leftists seeking to empower huge corporations to set the parameters of acceptable thought.
Those who claim that censorship can only be enacted by the state are making arguments that are over 20 years out of date.
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