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Free speech charter

This charter outlines my approach to free speech, among the values I cherish most dearly. This charter should be read in accordance with the wider suite of legal documentation pertaining to my work, including the following items:

The right to free speech

In the UK, every citizen has the inalienable right to freedom of expression, without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers, as detailed within the Human Rights Act of 1998. I exercise that right by writing and publishing articles – both news-led and opinionated editorials – on this website, in addition to authoring books.

I understand that such exercising of my free speech rights is still beholden to criminal law and other codes of conduct put forth by public and private bodies. For instance, hate speech is not protected under freedom of expression, and all of my work(s) comply with such a legislative interface.

Avoiding malicious communications

As a writer, author, blogger and journalist, I appreciate my responsibility not to (re)produce or disseminate malicious communications, nor any material that contains credible threats of violence, harassment or stalking; that specifically targets a person or their associated group(s) based on protected characteristics; or that breaches court orders.

In this regard, all of my work(s) comply with the Malicious Communications Act of 1998, which allows that ‘communications expressing an unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some, and painful to those subjected to it, will not be prosecuted.’

Indeed, the contents of my work(s) – in style, tone or substance – may well offend readers and users of this website. You will not agree with every opinion I share, and you are also likely to interpret facts differently to me. However, no intention is made to harass, bully, threaten or defame individuals, groups or organisations, especially pertaining to their age, disability, gender, marriage status, sexuality, religious belief(s), ethnicity or political affiliation(s). I reserve the right to reply to any such claims, and will defend myself accordingly using the full breadth of my human right to free speech.

Rejecting endorsements, affiliations or encouragements

Likewise, no attempt is made to influence, promote, condone, encourage or suggest agreement with any individual(s), organisation(s), movement(s), cause(s) or initiative(s). Readers should not be swayed by my writing, nor should they commit illegal acts citing my work(s) as inspiration or motivation. I write, publish and share my views. The unique interpretations thereof, and implications therefrom, are the sole responsibility of each individual reader. More information is available in my terms of service.

As explained in my mission statement, I’m an independent writer whose creative ideation, research and editing processes are not beholden to any third party. Therefore, my writing is not intended to – in any way – promote, support, condone or further any individual(s), organisation(s), movement(s), cause(s) or initiative(s).

I write passionately about Tranmere Rovers Football Club, for example, making nominative fair use of their trademark(s) for news reporting in the public interest, but any implied endorsement between myself and the registered company – either for me or by me – is denied. The same applies to my political journalism, with no membership or affiliation to any formal political entity. These subjects are my passions, and if they are yours as well, that is just a happy coincidence.

I use Shopify as a content management system, allowing me to build, host and develop this website. Shopify believes in the ‘free and open exchange of ideas and products,’ so long as they comply with their Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). I take this responsibility very seriously, conducting regular audits to ensure compliance with Shopify’s AUP. Any claims or complaints to the contrary will be investigated internally and swiftly mitigated to minimise harm and guarantee continuity of service.

I use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) as a means of self-publishing my own books, minimising interference and censorship from major publishing houses, which often have vested interests and conflicted priorities. ‘As a bookseller, we believe that providing access to the written word is important, including content that may be considered objectionable,’ say the Amazon KDP guidelines, and I fully support that endeavour while condemning acts that fall outside this remit, such as hate speech.

Condemning hate speech and targeted discrimination

While legal definitions vary by jurisdiction, the United Nations defines hate speech as ‘any kind of communication in speech, writing or behaviour, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are – in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factor.’

I do not – and will never – write, post, publish, promote or encourage hateful content. I condemn hate speech in all forms, viewing it as a hallmark of defeated arguments and intellectual redundancy. We should always be free to criticise, denounce, analyse, investigate, parody, and disagree with others, but resorting to hate speech and direct, targeted discrimination is illegal and immoral. As such, it has no place on this website, nor in any of its associated communities.

Denouncing cancel culture

Moreover, I stand with the Free Speech Union in their crusade to end cancel culture, which threatens to extinguish heterogeneous opinion from the public realm. In short, cancel culture describes the contemporary zeitgeist of publicly humiliating individuals or organisations online, usually via social media, whenever they act, write or speak in a manner that is not deemed politically correct by a secular band of sanctimonious angels acting in self-appointed roles as moderators of morality.

As detailed within my mission statement, we now live in a world where the utility and pleasure of an entire book can be cancelled from the historic realm by virtue of one single sentence that conveys a confused, unfinished or raw opinion. As authors, we are increasingly forced to write in a manner that will not cause offence to readers who are becoming more robotic in their ability to scan a page of text and identify all of its perceived inaccuracies. At the moment, we must sculpt our writing to match its epoch, rather than allowing the epoch to be defined by what we write. That is the very antithesis of creative expression or journalistic inquiry. That is a sanitisation of self drenched in hypocrisy.

Free speech is the grist of human progress. It sparks debate and it encourages discussion. It thaws pernicious worldviews by exposing them to heat. It shines a light on true injustice by allowing people to challenge it in a constructive manner. By contrast, cancel culture is a subversion of true disenfranchisement. It trivialises hardship and it suffocates passion. It dulls our message by channelling it through juvenile projects. It dilutes the progressive tradition – founded on iconoclastic thinking and progressed through tangible action – into gifs, memes and sarcastic tweets. We have to be better than that, and we have to come out of the basement. My work is grounded in that spirit.

I wholeheartedly concur with the joint letter published by more than 150 prominent writers, journalists and academics in Harper’s magazine in 2020, denouncing cancel culture and calling for a return to common sense. Every day, writers are currently forced to self-censor through fear of being cancelled. That anxiety-riddled phenomenon is what threatens the uniqueness and confidence of diverse opinion. That is what stops people from writing. That is what encourages people to bottle up their hurt. That is what makes us more susceptible to extremist politics, because he who does not speak from the heart is bound to be exploited in the mind.

As such, right now, we are living through a grim nadir of self-censorship. Never before have people been so inclined to dilute their own truth through fear of it offending other people. Some see that as a force for good, fostering restraint and encouraging compassion, but I see it as a trend for ill, diminishing art and muzzling expression. I will thus defend anybody’s freedom of expression – even those with whom I vehemently disagree – with every fibre of my being.

Complying with copyright, trademark and intellectual property law

In so far as the exercising of my free speech rights overlaps with copyright, trademark and intellectual property law, all matters should be dealt with in the context of my copyright charter, which provides comprehensive guidance on such issues.

In short, ‘fair dealing’ allows for the nominative fair use of copyrighted material for private study and specific research purposes; for educational means; to enable criticism or news reporting; and by way of caricature, pastiche or parody. All such nominative fair use of copyrighted material on this website, and in my published books, complies with such criteria, with balanced attribution where necessary in the interest of full transparency.

Furthermore, I make incidental and nominative fair use of trademarked titles, terms, names and slogans where necessary to report, criticise, educate, research or parody said items for communal benefit. I may report on universally beloved football clubs, for instance, or analyse the legacy of an artists who retains strict protection of their intellectual property rights. All such uses of copyrighted and trademarked content are undertaken in the spirit of factual coverage for the public interest. Moreover, no attempt is made, nor intention kept, to exploit such trademarked brands by including them in articles or written content.

Where trademarked and copyrighted titles, terms, names and slogans are used incidentally, use of said items does not constitute sponsorship nor endorsement – neither for me, nor by me. All views expressed on this website, and in any associated products, are those of Ryan Ferguson alone, and they do not reflect upon any organisation(s) or individual(s) with which I’m contracted or associated.

All rights to all original works published on this website are reserved by Ryan Ferguson and should not be reproduced or reused without his expressed written consent. Anybody found to have copied or plagiarise any said protected works – in part or in full – will be challenged and potentially prosecuted.

Proactively defending against libel, defamation and slander claims

In addition, all reporting on this website is – to the best of my knowledge – true at the point of publication or otherwise earmarked as opinion, negating the viability of disputes related to libel, defamation or slander. I adhere to a meticulous research process that includes extensive vetting of sources and critical analysis of interview materials, and I never publish content of dubious provenance.

By way of context, the statute of limitation for defamation and libel claims is one year from the date a contentious article was published online. As such, issues pertaining to content written and published outside that limitation window will be settled amicably, without the option of legal mediation.

Finally, for defamation claims to succeed, claimants must prove that serious financial loss was caused to themselves or their organisation(s) as a direct result of the contentious article or statement. Prosecution is therefore unlikely where an author or publisher disseminates said contentious article or statement to a small, niche audience such as mine.

Defining the virtual town square

“If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society,” wrote human rights activist Natan Sharansky in his book The Case for Democracy. “We cannot rest until every person living in a fear society has finally won their freedom.”

In the modern age, so centred on digital communication, we have created virtual town squares of infinite power. Websites, blogs, social networks and instant messaging apps are now at the epicentre of our discourse, and Sharansky’s paradigm – once endorsed by president George W Bush – should be applied to those digital environments, too. Alas, that is not always the case, as large publishing platforms engage in woke censorship, cancelling those whose views chafe with liberal orthodoxy.

On this website, however, my virtual town square is open for frank, honest and forthright debate. My audience is small and my exposure is minimal, but I will always walk to the middle of my virtual town square and express my opinions. Attempts to impede that process – through arrest, imprisonment or physical harm – are indicative of authoritarianism, and I will always strive to stamp that out wherever it percolates.

Safeguarding the privacy of website users and content subjects

Where individuals, organisations, groups or movements are mentioned in relation to sensitive information, I make every attempt to protect their rights to anonymity. I do not disclose personal information about other people or entities through my work, and I reserve the right to use pseudonyms where necessary to safeguard the privacy of content subjects without compromising factual details in the public interest.

I also respect the privacy of all website users, whose personal data is viewed as an extension of their physical property. I detest corporations that abuse the privacy and data of private individuals for financial gain, and I therefore opt out of social media marketing, pay-per-click targeting and affiliate advertising schemes while making minimal use of email newsletters, given consent.

Please consult my privacy policy, which includes details on cookies, for further information on how your data is processed, stored and used when browsing this website.

Reserving the right to appeal

Finally, any content, materials, articles or sentiments suspected of contravening this charter will be investigated and, where necessary, removed upon request. I reserve the right to explain any perceive violations in this theatre, just as I reserve the right to appeal any decision to cancel, thwart, prosecute or de-platform me based on legal views conveyed through my freedom of expression.

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