JK Rowling storm ‘shows risk to free speech’: Society has a duty to defend figures who are bullied by ‘online mob’, says Liam Fox
- Liam Fox said free speech could be in peril unless defend figures like JK Rowling
- The former cabinet minister says new technology poses risks to free speech
- Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned ‘cancel culture’
Free speech will be put in peril unless society speaks up to defend figures like JK Rowling who are ‘bullied by the online mob’, Liam Fox warns today.
The former cabinet minister says new technology poses risks to free speech that must be addressed by government and wider society.
In an address to the Adam Smith Institute, Dr Fox will point out how the Harry Potter author was abused by trans activists after speaking out in favour of women’s rights.
‘The sinister part was that it was not a counter-attack or riposte to the views she had posted but an attempt to delegitimise her and thus her intervention,’ he will say.
‘All of us, from whatever part of the political spectrum, must unite in making it abundantly clear that she is, absolutely, entitled to her views and to express them.
Former cabinet minister Liam Fox (pictured) says new technology poses risks to free speech that must be addressed by government and wider society
‘Keeping our heads below the parapet can only result in more victims.’
Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned ‘cancel culture’, boycotts and refusal to debate as destructive.
‘They represent a failure of virtue and values,’ the Most Reverend Justin Welby said in a new edition of his book, Reimagining Britain.
Dr Fox says he know feels ‘guilty’ for not defending other prominent women who have attracted controversy online, including comedian Jo Brand, who was savaged for a poor taste joke about Nigel Farage, and TV presenter Davina McCall who triggered a backlash after suggesting the online response to the killing of Sarah Everard amounted to ‘fear-mongering’.
He warns that failure to tackle so-called social media ‘pile-ons’ will ‘lead to a disintegration where majority intolerance and minority oppression become the norm.
It represents a self-righteousness that has lost any concept of self-awareness and social context and provides a very real danger of igniting a counter reaction leading to majority intolerance and minority oppression.’
Dr Fox describes free speech as a ‘basic human right’, adding: ‘Freedom of expression, especially a free press, is a means of underpinning other human rights through the ability to expose abuses and persecution.’ But he points out it has always had some limits, such as incitement to crime and libel.
Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury (pictured) has condemned ‘cancel culture’, boycotts and refusal to debate as destructive
And he will also call on the Government to tackle the social media giants over the ease with which people can use anonymous accounts to pump out messages that would otherwise be illegal.
He says it would be dangerous to allow a situation to take hold in which ‘newspapers are operating under much stricter laws than their digital counterparts’.
Calling for a change in the law, he says: ‘One solution, which I find attractive, is that where a judge rules that a libel would have been committed in print, an order could be given to a digital platform to release the identity of the individual concerned rather than ruling against the digital platform itself thus maintaining the link between actions and consequences for an individual.’
He warns that further action may also be needed to tackle cyber-bullying, particularly of children.