Ezra Levant: Why public powers are the real threat to internet freedom

Private powers are not a “large threat” to free speech, the Canadian lawyer and publisher tells Katie Engelhart.

KE: Ezra Levant, one of free speech debate’s main principles is to defend the internet and all other means of communication against the encroachments of both public and private powers. I’m wondering if you agree with this broad principle?

EL: I don’t think that there’s a large threat to free speech from private powers because at the end of the day what can someone actually do short of violence to stop you from saying and doing something. It’s only through the middle man of the state, either a court or a government inquisitor that can actually shut you down. I mean seriously what could a private person ever do to you? They could take you to defamation court. They could engage in lawfare against you but again that’s using the tools of the state. And if you just simply fixed those laws of the state, you’re protected from them. So I would disagree that private entities are the real threat. But very much the public entities are the real threat and I see that both through restrictive laws such as the defamation law and I think in Canada, human rights commissions have been a great force for censorship, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council and the CRTC (the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission) have been a huge force for censorship in TV and radio. But what’s the commonality among all of these things? They’re all government agencies.

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Comments (1)

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  1. To find Ezra Levant on this website as an advocate of free speech is discomforting. I was shocked recently to return to Toronto and switch on Sun-TV, a 24 cable channel that Mr. Levant appears on. Mr. Levant was engaged in some of the most vitriolic anti-Islam commentary that I’ve heard anywhere. He was attacking the Toronto police for deploying hijab -wearing Muslim women. He said that it’s an established fact that any woman wearing the hijab belongs to radical Islam. He made other distasteful comments about Muslim men.
    Levant refers routinely to CBC, a globally respected public service broadcaster, as State TV ( I worked for CBC for 20 years)
    The CRTC ought to be more vigilant, not less vigilant about broadcasters like Mr Levant who appear to be violating its guidelines on stereotyping and diversity.

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford. www.freespeechdebate.ox.ac.uk

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