The Stress on the Press

In 1766, Sweden’s Freedom of Press Act became the world’s first law supporting the freedom of speech. With the abolishment of censorship and a lack of restriction came the rise of the publication of newspapers with new, important content. How, then, following the same analytical trend of previous posts, did this historical accomplishment promote innovation and progress? The publishing of books and newspapers spread information, and as time progressed, the methods of information distribution changed.

Today, we primarily read the news online and on social media sites as well as TV news channels, with a decline in the use of physical newspapers. With this readily accessible information and limited supervision, it is easy to spread misinformation, present biased opinions as facts, and create fake news stories. While websites and social media sites have no restrictions on publications, Swedish newspapers are self-regulated by press councils, and follow an agreed-upon code of ethics that requires news outlets to submit themselves to external evaluation and potential punishment, and contribute money for operational costs. This self-regulation has ensured that the information distributed through newspapers is accurate, and holds the newspapers’ editors responsible for any valid complaint or accusation. This, unfortunately, is not true for social media and the internet.

Considering the efficiency of these newer press mediums, in terms of distribution and accessibility, social media and websites have proven to be more effective in spreading information. However, this innovation is not necessarily improving on, supplementing, or further developing the quality of information that newspapers have provided for so many years. In fact, the quality and accuracy of the information disseminated is declining. Innovation is being achieved, but in the process it is harming something of historical, cultural and informational value, and inadvertently facilitating the spread of misinformation.

While not all social media apps and websites are developed by Swedes, they, along with internet users in other countries, continue to share stories without checking their credibility, propagating falsities, and contributing to the international problem. Much of the Swedish population seems to have forgotten their history, their fight for the freedom of press, and their success in being the first to achieve this freedom. Thus, not all innovation is 100 percent beneficial to the public, and not all historical values and accomplishments are carried into the world of new technology and modernism.