American Council on Science and Health notes,
YouTube announced last week that it’s banning a number of high-profile anti-vaccine activists from its platform. The policy shift is meant to stem the spread of misinformation, but it raises some troubling questions. Most important among them: is more censorship worth the cost it imposes on society? …
It was the mainstream press that gave anti-vaccine activism the attention it needed to gain legitimacy in the minds of many Americans, and the coverage hasn’t stopped. In April, ABC published a badly misleading report about breakthrough COVID cases in Washington state. That same month, of all the newspapers in the world, The Washington Post published an article by Stephanie Seneff, an MIT computer scientist and well-known vaccine skeptic, who also blamed the pandemic on the weedkiller glyphosate. Of course, Fox News is guilty of the same science-free shenanigans when it comes to slanted vaccine reporting.Cameron English, “YouTube’s COVID Purge Raises Troubling Censorship Questions” at American Council on Science and Health (October 5, 2021)
The Science Righteous are, doubtless, giggling with glee over that — and over this as well:
Late Thursday, Google announced that it is demonetizing content that makes misleading or false claims about climate change. As a result, content that calls into question or denies the scientific consensus around anthropogenic climate change will not have Google advertising alongside it. In addition, Google will no longer run any advertising that “contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.”Eric Bangeman, “There will soon be no more ads denying climate change on Google” at Ars Technica (October 8, 2021)
English for ACSH makes a critical point:
In sum, the media has been a powerful, if unintentional, ally to the anti-vaccine movement over the years. It seems that newspapers, book publishers, and cable news networks deserve to split a good portion of the blame we have to dole out. If protecting the public from misinformation is the goal, why would we exclude giant media companies with enormous audiences from this social media purge?
There’s no reasonable answer. Either we consistently silence proponents of junk science or we don’t silence anyone. The second option is the better of the two.Cameron English, “YouTube’s COVID Purge Raises Troubling Censorship Questions” at American Council on Science and Health (October 5, 2021)
Of course, English is assuming here that every alarm raised about vaccines is unjustifiable. Given how quickly so many anti-COVID-19 jabs were rushed onto the market, we would be awfully lucky if not a single one of them was a cure worse than the disease for many recipients. Maybe we are just that lucky this time out. But if we are not, we should want to know about it.
The bottom line is that censorship in these matters leads inevitably to huge, endemic corruption. People who have something to hide make use of censorship rules for silencing opponents. People who know what is going wrong are stifled. After a while, the rot runs so deep, it cannot be excised and the information stock simply decays.
That’s why we got rid of censorship in the first place. Not simply on the basis that people have a right to read whatever they want, as the matter is often portrayed. No, it’s more that the voices most energetically subjected to censorship will include those saying things we had better listen to. Avoidance of censorship is a key factor in the maintenance of stable democracies.
The point, however, is that social media platforms and academics who want tighter online speech restrictions are poor judges of which users are honestly discussing science and which are using academic language to misinform people.Cameron English, “YouTube’s COVID Purge Raises Troubling Censorship Questions” at American Council on Science and Health (October 5, 2021)
Some of them won’t even be trying to be judges in the public interest. Not really. They just want to keep bad press out of circulation.
Meanwhile, Bangeman’s dumb slugger at Ars Technica is “Money Talks, Denialism Walks.”
Oh sure. As if, once Money is talking, it couldn’t just be Fact that is doing the walking. That’s the trouble with depending on the biggest bully to do your enforcing. Corruption is the feature, not the bug, of any ensuing program.