This article from Current Affairs, The Truth Is Paywalled But The Lies Are Free, has been doing the round recently, and it makes for depressing reading:
But let us also notice something: the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the New Republic, New York, Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and the London Times all have paywalls. Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Wire, the Federalist, the Washington Examiner, InfoWars: free! You want “Portland Protesters Burn Bibles, American Flags In The Streets,” “The Moral Case Against Mask Mandates And Other COVID Restrictions,” or an article suggesting the National Institutes of Health has admitted 5G phones cause coronavirus—they’re yours. You want the detailed Times reports on neo-Nazis infiltrating German institutions, the reasons contact tracing is failing in U.S. states, or the Trump administration’s undercutting of the USPS’s effectiveness—well, if you’ve clicked around the website a bit you’ll run straight into the paywall. This doesn’t mean the paywall shouldn’t be there. But it does mean that it costs time and money to access a lot of true and important information, while a lot of bullshit is completely free.
There are many examples given where the lie is widely and freely disseminated but the refutations are more often than not behind a paywall.
I’ve always found paywalls to be irritating at best, but I hadn’t really considered before just how detrimental the lack of access could be in a world where disinformation and misinformation are so rampant.
Look, I get that reporting, particularly investigative journalism and in-depth analysis, cost money. But a lot of news organizations — and publishers more generally — need to rethink how they’re paywalling their content. Because the costs to society of having the scales tilted so much towards outright lies could be catastrophic — and in some cases already are.