Bristol Free Speech Society disassociates from Facebook group following ‘insults, personal attacks and bigotry’


By Filiz Emily Gurer, News Editor

A statement from the society’s committee on the Bristol Free Speech Society Discussion page announced that the society would disaffiliate itself from the online discussion forum as of 12pm today.

This follows a series of posts that deteriorated into ‘insults, personal attacks, and bigotry’, the Society said in a statement.

The Society’s committee members held a meeting yesterday to discuss the future of the discussion group and decided by an almost unanimous vote to discontinue the Society’s connection with the group.

This meeting came after the departure of a member from the group, who cited the impossibility of continuing open dialogue among other members, whilst some people persisted in deploying free speech as a means to hurt others.

The Society posted a statement on Facebook following the committee’s meeting.

The announcement on Facebook cites that the ‘new society committee does not believe the group in its current form is conducive towards free and open, civil and constructive discussion.’

The committee also states that [they] ‘no longer feel that it is in line with the society’s vision of free speech to administer this page.’

The Facebook group, which was previously called ‘Bristol Against Censorship’, existed independently of the Free Speech Society, which inherited it when the new committee took over.

The Free Speech Society’s incoming President, Harry Walker, explained the Society’s position to Epigram.

Speaking on the matter, Harry said: ‘throughout my time on the committee, I have tried various ways to detoxify the community, for example getting rid of the anonymous submissions, but ultimately we thought the community was still toxic.’

‘I don’t believe it’s free speech to just shout into the ether and not be held accountable for your beliefs. I think you should be held accountable. That means it’s free and open discussion.’

He emphasised that ‘the discussion that takes place online… does not resemble that which takes place in our virtual and pop up events’ and the most frequent posters to the group ‘do not attend [the Society’s] real life events.’

Harry was particularly keen to highlight that the society feels that the discussion group ‘no longer serves the interests of the society’ and it ‘does not foster free, open and constructive discussion.’

The Facebook discussion group, now disaffiliated from the Free Speech society, will revert to its previous name of ‘Bristol Against Censorship’, and admins of the group will be decided in due course.

Featured Image: Bristol Free Speech Society

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