How Free Should Speech Be?

Yielding to the big star pressure of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, this week Spotify agreed to put a content advisory label on any podcast that includes material about Covid. Mitchell and Young removed their music in protest at Joe Rogan’s podcasts. These shows are extremely popular globally but they aired views sceptical of Covid vaccines. In an Instagram post Rogan himself said he'd aim for more impartiality in future, but Spotify’s shares are down and more artists are joining the boycott. Who is responsible for the content of Spotify or any other digital platform? Is Covid a special case or must they remove or add a warning about anything any listeners might object to? Is it enough to say sorry or offer to slap on a "contentious material" label? At what point do such safeguards become censorship?

And what about other, more traditional, intermediaries? This week the poet and teacher Kate Clanchy said she considered suicide after parting company with her publisher. She’d been accused of racism in the words she used about pupils in her memoir Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me. The students have defended her in print and Clanchy has apologised. And yet the debate goes on. Are publishers morally responsible for their authors ideas and beliefs? If the publisher or internet platform truly disagrees with the material, is it enough to issue an apology or label the offending material as contentious? And does intent count at all? With Journalist Brendan O'Neill, Academic Julie Posetti, Broadcaster Inaya Folarin Iman and Poet Anthony Anaxagorou.