Media

Issue of the day: Is the word “mother” biased?

Toby Young, general secretary of the Free Speech Union, told the BBC that the university has “wasted time and money” teaching staff how to “speak woke-ish”.

Maureen Sugden, The Hearld, 17th April 2021

The Online Safety Bill is an assault on free speech

The Free Speech Union has been monitoring the progress of the bill since it was first run up the flagpole and we are glad to see some recent improvements to it. Nonetheless, without major changes, it will still mean lawful online speech will end up being censored.

Radomir Tylecote, Spiked, 13th April 2021

Children are warned old tweets could ruin their lives: Backlash as it is revealed police are recording thousands of historic social media posts as non-crime “hate incidents”

Toby Young, General Secretary of the FSU, said: “Non-Crime Hate Incidents are an invention of the College of Policing, an unelected body. They have never been approved by Parliament, there is no legal threshold or independent evidentiary test applied to them and members of the public have no right of appeal against them. Indeed, a member of the public can have a Non-Crime Hate Incident recorded against their name without ever being informed of the fact. Mr Young concluded: “It is time we did away with this Orwellian practice that has little or no basis in law and is used in a highly subjective fashion as we saw in the Harry Miller case. The recording of these non-crimes on people’s police records has a chilling effect on free speech.”

James Robinson, MailOnline, 6th April 2021

Britons FURIOUS as BBC investigates Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em- “Wasting licence fee money!”

Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, previously criticised the BBC for giving classic programmes a “moral health warning”. He said: “The BBC has been taken over by the ‘woke’ cult. Its managers are like 17th Century Witchfinder Generals, constantly on the lookout for heretics. Any programmes that depart from their narrow ideological dogma are immediately slapped with a moral health warning. Someone needs to remind them that Britain is the birthplace of Parliamentary democracy and the licence-payers who pay their wages believe in free speech.”

Rachel Russell, The Daily Express, 6th April 2021

Academic freedom is so last century – Has the free speech fightback begun?

Last year the Free Speech Union intervened successfully to overturn several instances of de-platforming gender-critical speakers at Oxford and Cambridge dons overturned, by a 1,316-162 vote, the effort by administrators to “be respectful of the diverse identities of others.”

Ramesh Thakur, Spectator Australia, 3rd April 2021

“Muhammad cartoon row” teacher’s own union gave £3,000 to Islamic charity that named him online and “endangered” his life

The Free Speech Union said they were concerned that the actions of the local charity had exposed the teacher to “serious disrepute and physical harm”, in a letter to the Charity Commission. In their letter they said: “It should have been clear to the trustee who signed the letter – and indeed to any reasonable person – that merely naming the teacher could endanger his personal safety. Naming him as a sadistic abuser of Islam, in the wake of the murder of Samuel Paty in Paris, was unforgivably reckless.”

Bhvishya Patel, MailOnline, 1st April 2021

Fighting Back, At Last: New activist groups are responding to the spread of illiberal tendencies on campus and beyond

The Free Speech Union hopes to promulgate a code of conduct pledging employers to protect instead of punish mob-targeted workers. It also hopes to set up biweekly coordinating calls among the various groups (akin to Grover Norquist’s influential Wednesday-morning meetings of conservative activists).

Jonathan Rauch, Persuasion, 29th March 2021.

Islamic charity “put Batley cartoon row teacher in danger” by outing him

In a letter to the Charity Commission, the Free Speech Union said they are concerned that the actions of Purpose of Life, a charity local to the school in West Yorkshire, could “expose the teacher to serious disrepute and physical harm as a result of teaching his students about a controversial topic”. Their letter went on to say: “The exercise and promotion of the right to free expression should not have such potentially dire consequences in this country. We therefore ask that the Commission investigate Purpose of Life’s letter as a serious incident. We believe it has breached its obligations as a charity.”

Camilla Turner and Gordon Rayner, The Daily Telegraph, 26th March 2021.

Grammar school head issues “unequivocal apology” and suspends “RE teacher who showed class Prophet Muhammad cartoon” – but sends police officer out to tell furious Muslim parents protesting at front gates

The Free Speech Union said it stands “in solidarity with the teacher at Batley Grammar who has been suspended at the behest of a censorious religious mob”. Toby Young, its director general, said he is writing to the headteacher to object, copying in Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, and to the local Chief Constable asking him to make sure the teacher is “protected from intimidation”. He told MailOnline: “Schools should be teaching children about the importance of free speech and for the headteacher to give in immediately to the demands of an outrage mob – apologising to them and suspending the teacher concerned – sets a very bad example. No one has the right not to be offended.”

Mark Duell and Jack Wright, MailOnline, 25th March 2021.

The government vs freedom of speech

So far, free-speech activists, helped by the Free Speech Union and others, such as Free to Disagree, have had some successes. They have managed to water down the still appalling Scottish hate-crime law, and to persuade the Law Commission in London to propose getting rid of the over-extended Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 criminalising any internet post deemed “grossly offensive”.

Andrew Tettenborn, Spiked, 18th March 2021