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.