Critical thinking or censorship? The choice is clear.
Who decides what content is harmful or unsafe, and how do they decide that? If it’s the state, what else will this allow them to define for us?
The Internet has always been a “problem child” for society. It’s completely transformed our lives for the better and has, at the same time, been a destructive troublemaker. The latest attempt to “discipline” this problem child has come from the Department of Internal Affairs. They’ve recently proposed a new media regulator that would have oversight of the contemporary content landscape intended to “promote safety on online and media platforms.” At first glance, this sounds well-intentioned. But look a little closer, and it seems more like a never-ending game of Whack-A-Mole where the government gets to decide what we can watch, read, and share.
This proposal has been introduced under the guise of protecting children and young people from “harmful” content online, and thus, some key questions need to be revisited. Who decides what content is harmful or unsafe, and how do they decide that? If it’s the state, what else will this allow them to define for us? While addressing the presence of “harmful” content on social media platforms is essential, the proposed media regulation may inadvertently do more harm than good. It doesn’t take long to create a “Great Firewall” that attempts to filter out the entire internet.
The potential expansion of censorship powers here and the stifling of diverse viewpoints should alarm us.
It’s important to acknowledge that freedom of expression encompasses a wide range of opinions, some of which may be considered controversial or unpopular but are nonetheless valuable in fostering a robust democratic discourse. The potential expansion of censorship powers here and the stifling of diverse viewpoints should alarm us.
Rather than relying on strict media regulation, an opportunity lies in promoting digital literacy and encouraging responsible platform usage. By empowering individuals to assess the content they encounter online critically, we nurture a society that actively engages with information and discerns between fact and fiction.
Excessive media regulation risks consequences such as curtailing free speech and limiting the marketplace of ideas. Instead, focusing on education and digital literacy would empower individuals to make informed decisions, equipping them to recognise and address “harmful” content themselves. By cultivating an environment that values critical thinking and responsible engagement, we can achieve a more resilient society that is less susceptible to the effects of “harmful” content.
Let us embrace this opportunity to cultivate an informed and engaged society without sacrificing the principles that underpin our democratic values.
While it is indeed crucial to address “harmful” content, relying solely on state regulatory measures may hinder the open exchange of ideas. Instead, investing in education, digital literacy, and responsible platform usage can empower individuals to navigate the digital landscape responsibly.
When we champion a society that values critical thinking, we can preserve free speech while minimising the negative impact of harmful content. Let us embrace this opportunity to cultivate an informed and engaged society without sacrificing the principles that underpin our democratic values.go back