The importance of a free and independent press cannot be overestimated. The importance of free speech and a free press are critical to both safeguard democracy and help it thrive. If we can’t have a free marketplace of ideas that is reported on freely by an independent press, then we basically have a form of tyranny or Orwellian controlled form of influence over our lives.
Freedom of Press in the Online Age
When we discuss freedom of the press today, we need to bear in mind that the press has changed enormously over the last decade. Until the 90’s and into the 21st century, the press was dominated by the main television outlets, newspaper outlets, and more recently, cable outlets. However, in the early 21st century, the internet went from being another aspect of the standard press outlets into becoming a dominant press outlet in and of itself. This first occurred with the advent of Google becoming a verb. Once tens of millions of people searched for their information and news every day on google, all of a sudden Google emerged as the leading press outlet of the digital age. But within a few years, social media, especially, Facebook, and to a lesser extent twitter, became even more dominant in the field of online press. Instead of the news being searched for in Google, the news found you via Facebook. The standard television outlets lost a large percentage of their viewers, and many standard print outlets closed up shop.
Based on this background one can further understand that freedom of the press and freedom of speech in the fields of online media are intrinsically connected. This is a battle that is much more important than most people realize. We cannot be silent or we will be silenced.