Social media has given everyone access to platforms via which their views can be spread anywhere in the world. Stupid people. Dangerous people. Lunatics. Monsters. It used to be hard for these people to grab the mic. They used to be less visible and influential.
Empowering them does not feel like a good thing for society. It poses real dangers. It's ugly. But that said, the genie is not going back in the bottle. We have to accept this as the new reality if we truly hold to our principles about free expression.
Democracy is therefore going to become messier. The temptations to quash it or to manage it through constraining free speech will become greater. Both sides will have advocates for doing this. But limiting free expression is worse than facing the tsunami of unleashed opinions.
We need to take a public health approach to this. We need to educate people so that they develop an immunity to the hate and the conspiracies and the lies. We need to learn how to successfully develop a healthy society in a dramatically altered information ecosystem.
What is dangerous is to ignore that the new reality presents new challenges or to pretend that we can ignore them. Social dysfunction will be much closer to the surface than before. Public pathologies will spread more easily.
It is crucial we learn how to contain them without undermining the essential values on which a free society is based. Education, as noted, is key. But so too is calling out dangerous actors-whether they promulgate hate or lies or disinformation or they make it possible to do so.
You can follow @djrothkopf.
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