Last month I have noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had repeatedly exaggerated the scientific evidence in support of face mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Facebook attach a warning to this column, which she said was “missing context” and “could mislead people”.
According to an alliance of social media platforms, government-funded organizations and federal officials, journalist Michael Shellenberger calls the “censorship-industrial complex”, I had committed the offense of “misinformation”. Unlike “disinformation”, which is intentionally misleading, or “disinformation”, which is wrong, “misinformation” is true but not practical.
As illustrated by internal communications on Twitter that journalist Matt Taibbi Underline last week malicious information may include emails of government officials who undermine their credibility and “real content that could promote vaccine hesitancy.” This last category includes accurate reports “breakthrough infections” in people vaccinated against COVID-19, accounts “real side effects of vaccines”, objections vaccination mandates, critical politicians, and quotes of peer-reviewed research on naturally acquired immunity.
Disinformation And disinformation has always been disputed categories, defined by the fallible and frequently subjective judgments of public officials and other government-approved experts. But misinformation is even more clearly in the eye of the beholder, since it is defined not by its alleged inaccuracy, but by its perceived threat to public health, democracy or national security, which often amounts to nothing more than to question the wisdom, honesty, or authority of these experts.
Taibbi’s recent revelations focused on the work of the Virality projectthan the taxpayer-funded Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) spear in 2020. Although Renée DiResta, Director of Research at SIO, concedes that “misinformation is ultimately speech”, which means that the government cannot suppress it directly, it said the threat it represents “requires[s] that social media platforms, independent researchers and government work together as partners in the fight.”
This type of collaboration raises obvious free speech concerns. If platforms like Twitter and Facebook were to make these assessments independently, their editorial discretion would be protected by the First Amendment. But the picture is different when government officials, including the presidentTHE general surgeonmembers of Congressand representatives of public health And law enforcement agencies, publicly and privately berate social media companies for not doing enough to remove speech they consider dangerous.
Such interference is particularly alarming when it includes specific “requests” to remove content, make it less accessible, or ban particular users. Even without explicit extortion, these requests are akin to orders, as they are made against the backdrop of threats aimed at punishing recalcitrant platforms.
Threats include antitrust action, increased responsibility for content posted by users, and other “legal and regulatory measures”. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said such measures might be needed when he demanded a “whole of society” effort to tackle the “urgent threat” posed by “health misinformation”.
In a federal trial filed last year, the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, joined by scientists who have opposed the ever-growing crusade against disinformation, misinformation, and misinformation, argue that such pressure violates the First Amendment. This week, Terry A. Doughty, federal judge in Louisiana, allowed that the trial continues, saying the plaintiffs had rightly alleged “substantial encouragement and coercion that converts the otherwise private conduct of censorship on social media platforms into state action.”
Doughty added that the plaintiffs “plausibly alleged state action under the theories of joint ownership, entanglement, and the combination of factors such as subsidy, authorization, and encouragement.” Based on this analysis, he ruled that the plaintiffs “plausibly state a claim of First Amendment violation via government-induced censorship.”
Regardless of the outcome of this case, Congress can take steps to discourage proxy censorship. Shellenberger argue that it should stop funding groups like the ISO and “force instant accountability for all communications between government officials and contractors with social media managers regarding content moderation.”
The interference described by Shellenberger should not be a partisan issue. This should trouble anyone who prefers open inquiry and debate to the government’s covert manipulation of online discourse.
© Copyright 2023 by Creators Syndicate Inc.