So, Musk tweets that freedom of speech is the bedrock of democracy. But in this day and age, “speech” is no longer the dominant medium of expressing one’s view. In the digital age, freedom of “speech” is more likely to be the bedrock of misinformation instead. The human mind has been long conditioned to take the written word as more of a Gospel truth compared to hearing them. We question very little of what we read, but it could take up to three different people telling us the same thing before we are convinced it is the “truth”. So when the written medium, though social media platforms, becomes the dominant form of expression of views and opinions, such views and opinions are more susceptible to being accepted.
And we have seen how fake news and misinformation have proliferated our social media platforms. This is largely due to the providers of such platforms not spending enough resources to fact check content that are driving them “eyeballs” revenue. In fact, one could argue it would make more sense for them for such contents to be more sensational and controversial to drive eyeballs instead of establishing the boring truth.
Hence, such conditions prove ripe for misinformation today. But to rule out this freedom of "speech" would also not be acceptable in less totalitarian regimes. What is our defence then?
Well, how about, caveat lector – let the reader beware. And it's importance should even outweigh that of caveat emptor in this digital age.
We need to start training our minds to be skeptical on the things we read, down to even the “comments” level. And with the steady erosion of journalistic integrity, this should also include content from the traditional news sources. Yes, I'm afraid becoming more cynical is sadly our only defence for now.
But, on the bright side, we can now welcome you into our world; the world of professional sceptics.