As could’ve been expected, culture wars have reached new levels of tension during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the battles around the importance of free speech. YouTube has deleted videos related to the virus that contain questionable ‘information’. One case that entered the spotlight was the removal of a London Real interview with antisemitic conspiracy theorist David Icke. Since then, the program’s host Brian Rose has been claiming that the removal of the video is a violation of his rights, and that he has been censored. At the same time, there has been harsh criticism, and often bitter accusations, against people in the public sphere who have been critical of the lockdown, and suggestive of an alternative approach.
Why is there so much confusion on what does and what does not constitute free speech, and a violation of it? Are the deplatforming of conspiracy theorists or the twitter mobs a threat to free speech? And what are the prospects for free speech and an open dialogue during times of fear and crisis?