National treasure Rowan Atkinson has spoken out against online cancel culture, comparing those who gang up on others on social media to medieval mobs who would hunt down and burn dissenters.
The actor, 65, best known for Mr Bean and Blackadder, made the comments in an interview with the Radio Times.
“The problem we have online is that an algorithm decides what we want to see, which ends up creating a simplistic, binary view of society. It becomes a case of either you’re with us or against us. And if you’re against us, you deserve to be ‘cancelled’,” he said.
“It’s important that we’re exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion, but what we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn.
“So it is scary for anyone who’s a victim of that mob and it fills me with fear about the future.”
Mr Atkinson has long been a staunch advocate of free speech. In 2012, he spoke at a parliamentary reception where he campaigned to change Section 5 of the Public Order Act, the controversial ‘insults’ law.
“If we want a robust society, we need more robust dialogue and that must include the right to insult or to offend. Because, as someone once said, the freedom to be inoffensive is no freedom at all,” he said.
More recently, Atkinson joined the backlash against the Scottish Government’s Hate Crime Bill last year, fearing it would limit freedom of expression.