One of the most challenging free speech questions is whether and when individuals should feel free to "cancel" the speech of others, through boycotts or other exercises of private power. That was a central message from Alex Abdo, Knight Institute litigation director, in a keynote to students and others gathered at a July 18 Foundation for Individual Rights in Education conference.
Abdo observed that the “cancel culture” label is often deployed selectively, but he expressed concern with some forms of social censure, explaining, “While private restraints on speech are not the same as governmental ones, both can suppress expression a free society should allow. Both can drive dissenting views from the public square. Both risk calcifying public discourse and enshrining majoritarian orthodoxy.”
Watch Abdo’s full remarks and an extended Q&A session below.
A. Adam Glenn was a writer/editor at the Knight First Amendment Institute.