CliffCentral.com founder Gareth Cliff set out a robust defence of free speech in a presentation at the Free Market Foundation in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening.
It’s a wide-ranging and fascinating talk. Cliff has an important message to share on freedom of speech at a critical juncture in South Africa’s development as a democracy.
And he has interesting views on the impact of the Internet on free speech, as well as the chilling effect that the fallout from the Perry Sparrow incident in 2016 had on social media — and especially Twitter — in South Africa.
Cliff was fired from Idols, the reality singing competition on M-Net, after he tweeted, in the wake of Sparrow making racist comments about black people on Facebook, that “people really don’t understand free speech at all”. He sued the broadcaster and won his place back on the show after a court found in his favour.
“It’s made Twitter a very dull place,” Cliff told the audience of the broader fallout from the Sparrow incident. “I couldn’t care less about what’s going on [on Twitter] and sharing an opinion anymore… but God forbid you should post an opinion that the self-appointed marshals of that space don’t like, because it will be the last thing you say.”
A word of thanks to Cliff and to Free Market Foundation executive director Leon Louw for allowing TechCentral to use the audio from the presentation.
And a word of caution, especially for younger listeners: the presentation contains strong language.
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