Effect of Modern Technologies on Media Freedoms
The ability to publicly communicate or display one’s intentions and beliefs is referred to as freedom of expression.It encompasses freedom of expression in written word, verbal communication or diverse platforms of fashion and art. Every human being inclusive of the introverts has the innate nature of the desire to express their ideas to the world. However, in spite of this desire, there are questions on the length the governments ensure that all the citizens are free to express themselves and how far individuals should be allowed to extend their limits in a political realm. The government might decide to censor some material that could be offensive and seems to cause trouble, for instance, materials touching on racism, religious freedom, and political biases.
Politically, philosophically and scientifically, the presence of freedom to express individual ideas and being able to reach other people’s ideas has contributed to progress in the society. A free and rational debate are allowed in some cases when an idea is termed morally abominable; thus, the idea isnot immediately censoredbut given room to articulate and from that the irrational ideas are dismissed (IDEA). Ideally, in some situations, an individual’s safety might be endangered by someone else’s right to free expression and this raises the need for government involvement in deciding what is right to express to save lives and keep citizens safe. Despite every nation subscribing to the article 19, the right to freedom of expression in the global Declaration of Human Rights, it has not been a universal achievement. There has been a consistent decline in the freedom of expression even in the Westerncountries where free speech is prevalent especially politically. Social networking cites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter make it easier for individuals to express themselves to a broad audience though the ones found guilty of being offensive or abusive have been prosecuted.
Regardless of the availability and emergence of social media, currently, freedom of expression still faces international and domestic economic divide. Individuals who have access to newspapers and television networks can express themselves easily and fast compared to the ones who do not have the money to purchase these services. Likewise, access to the internet brings about a disparity between those who can access it and those who cannot access it, and this stirs up the debate on how modern technology has affected freedom of expression. However, freedom of expression needs a public platform for it to be a democratic and human rights pillar where citizens can freely interact.
According to European Commission, the media acknowledged as a fundamental element in a democracy and gives the public a right to freedom of expression. It allows the citizens to debate and discuss with each other on certain ideas and give their views about them. The platform also offers room for the politicians and public officials to express their views, be questioned, and respond to the public questions.For the media to fulfill this function, it has to gain independence from government and political control and interference and thereforethe emergence of diverse media outlets giving variable content from different points of view to avoid monopoly.
Social media materialization has changed the way individuals express their ideas and technological evolution is not restricted onTwitter and Facebook as one can blog expressing their ideas to a large audience (IDEA).Media plays a watchdog role in that it promotes transparency of the government and scrutinizes those in power for maladministration and corruption through public expression. In the past, for one to express their ideas to a big crowd they had to be able to publish, and this was entitled to a system of rules and regulations through editing.As a result, individuals were bound to adhere to what the publisher deemed was right to be let out to the public, but thanks to technology one can freely express their ideas.
The digital developments in the media industry possess a threat not only to the profitability of the traditional media but dissemination of unbiased information. Concisely, the dissemination of information through peer to peer digital platforms is based on the viral attraction that the media can create. For instance, powerful companies such as the Apple, Verizon, and Google seem to have a bigger share of the digital profits. Such communication companies are aided by the “search” capability that is controlling the digital world. In essence, consumers want fast access to data, in a convenient way and at a low data cost. Though a significant development for the consumer, the market producers and suppliers are facing imminent collapse.
Arguably, some traditional media platforms such as newspapers and magazines will be out of the market when mobile data connection will be universal for all. However, they have tried to remain profitable by launching an online newspaper that needs a subscription fee. The ideology has not been successful considering the online alternatives present in the market and the associated cost. Consequently, most newspapers companies have resulted to downsizing. In fact, according to the European Commission, about 13, 400 newspaper journalists have lost their jobs in the last four years. More severely, the trend is expected to affect the whole world, which means a minority of digitalized companies will control the industry. As a result, the content shared online might be biased since it depends on how content goes viral.
To sum up, the rapid growth in technology has both positive and negative impacts on the freedom of expression. On the pros side, it can contribute to more scrutiny on the public institutions, and a large audience can be achieved. However, digitalized platforms are easily regulated by authorities who can use state machinery to filter information being offered on different platforms. The practice could pose a significant threat to the freedom of expression especially in criticizing inept organizations and fighting social evils. Moreover, information passed online depends on the public debate that content can spur, which means social topics will attract more attention
European Commission. (2012). Freedom of Expression, Media and Digital Communications (pp. 7-12). Geneva: European Commission.
IDEA. Freedom of Expression. Idebate.org. Retrieved 8 April 2016, from http://digitalfreedoms.idebate.org/digitalfreedoms/freedom-of-expression