I grew up in a censor-free household. There was no question I could not raise, no topic considered taboo, no material that was prohibited in our household. So, yes, I value freedom.
But I grew up in an era when people had the luxury of time to think and reflect before acting on their thoughts or sharing their feelings. Messaging was slow so responses were measured.
Today, however, messages travel with lightning speed. And in seconds, the capacity to spread misinformation is massive. Misinformation is false information spread unintentionally as in the case of sharing outdated information or information that is not accurate.
Disinformation is false information spread intentionally to pursue financial goals or political agendas among other darker motives. Mal-information, on the other hand, is true information spread to cause harm to others as when private information or photos are leaked.
This is social media’s immense power to influence elections, mount rebellions, push conspiracy theories and hypnotize millions to make catastrophic choices. This is how social media has managed to prolong this pandemic and bring about disease, death and destruction on a global scale.
When mask mandates result in verbal abuse, physical altercations and militant action, when frontline personnel are met with ridicule, hostility and violence, when false information leads people to make harmful decisions, any sane-thinking society would know it’s time to curb freedom of expression.
Mal-information maligns. Misinformation misleads. Disinformation destroys and decimates otherwise civilized societies.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental right. But when the exercise of such freedom infringes upon another person’s right to live a life free of harm, such freedom must be curtailed.
If mainstream media are held accountable for the content they publish or broadcast, social media must also be held to account for the content posted on their sites. For if their platforms are designed to allow personal posts to proliferate as to prove destructive and deadly on a global scale, it is thus the moral obligation of these sites to censor content and stop the carnage.
Rules are restrictive but they show respect for others. Absolute freedom creates the perfect storm—for relationships to crumble, for societies to fall, for anarchy to reign. Personal boundaries, societal norms, public policy, legislation—they all exist for a reason.
I grew up in a censor-free household. But I cannot support a censor-free society. I have seen the folly of unbridled freedom especially when exercised without accountability. No pride can be taken when freedom is exercised to spread falsehood, to do harm, to kill or to destroy lives.