Helen Lewis is pessimistic about the culture wars.
If today’s tech giants can be said to have an ideology, it is the promotion of unfettered free speech. Social media companies trumpet how pro-democracy protesters use their networks to oppose repressive governments. Celebrities are warned of the “Streisand effect” of trying to suppress unflattering information about them, and creating more publicity in the process. Twitter’s former general counsel once described the company as “the free-speech wing of the free-speech party”.
But amid this orgy of self-congratulation, there is one rarely mentioned fact: one person’s free speech can come at the cost of another’s. This is the kernel at the heart of so many harassment cases: the stalker will insist, with an air of honest bafflement, that they are simply exercising their right to free speech. Unfortunately, they are doing it by shouting through the letterbox of their victim, who is now too afraid to leave their house.