A friend and I were recently discussing John Perry Barlow’s “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.” Barlow’s ideas resonate with both of us. We were wondering if we (as a culture) had achieved what Barlow had envisioned. We challenged ourselves to compose a brief summary of what we have observed in the last few years.
As I speak with students today, issues of free speech are important. Young people do appear to have a libertarian view, but they are not speaking and listening in a marketplace of ideas.
The echo chamber is alive and well and severely limiting access to ideas. Further, young people (and those my age as well) cannot differentiate fact and opinion. Talking points are accepted as reality and any spin that originated within one’s echo chamber becomes reality.
Although self-imposed, the echo chamber is as serious a barrier to free expression of (and free access to) ideas as any commercial or government actions. Barlow missed “the mob” (as in “mob rule”) as one of the interests that was a threat to free access to ideas in the digital world.