Mumsnet Founder Defends Free Speech Following Advertiser Boycott Threat

Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts has launched a passionate defence of free speech and the right to publicly debate important issues following threats by campaigners to boycott brands who advertise on the website.

Justine Roberts told The Times this week that she had been approached by three significant advertisers who said they were being pressured to withdraw from the parenting website because it allows the discussion of transgender topics.

“Transgender activists have contacted Mumsnet advertisers and said they will be organising a boycott of their products if they don’t remove their advertising from Mumsnet,” Roberts said.

 “What’s worrying to me is the thought-police action around speech and the shutting down of the right to be able to disagree and immediately labelling it as transphobic,” she added.

Last year advertisers, media agencies and news media publishers came together to issue an unequivocal rejection of attempts to censor the press by encouraging advertisers to boycott newspapers.  

Responding to calls by lobby group Stop Funding Hate for advertisers to boycott newspapers whose editorial lines the group disagrees with, the Advertising Association, ISBA, and News Media Association issued strongly worded defences of press freedom and the right of brands to choose where they advertise in line with their commercial interests. 

Writing about Mumsnet this in The Spectator week, James Kirkup said: “Long before Mumsnet or the internet even existed, we created a place where people’s views could be heard and discussed, where opinions could be aired and compared. We even employed a group of people to ensure that such opinions would be raised and considered. The place is called Parliament and the people are called MPs.

“As a result of writing about this issue here over the last few months, I have come to know that quite a few of those MPs, from all parties, think that the sorts of questions the Mumsnetters are asking about gender are quite reasonable and should be answered. But precious few of those MPs will say so in public.

“They are not willing to do what Justine Roberts has done and say openly that there is nothing transphobic about debating gender and sex, even if some people don’t like some of the things that are said in that debate, because – and this cannot be said enough – there is no right not to be offended.

“Justine Roberts has shown she has the balls to stand up for free speech and sensible political debate. The time is coming for MPs to show some courage and do the same.”