This week, the World Health Organisation surprised everyone, critics and cheer squad alike, by advising parents to hold off on vaccinating their children for COVID-19. The WHO statement said that since children tend to experience only mild disease symptoms, they aren’t in urgent need of vaccinations unless they have a pre-existing condition and vaccines should be prioritised to those with conditions, health care workers, and older individuals. It’s unlikely that anyone was more startled by this announcement than Facebook. We can deduce that because it censored posts that sought to share the WHO recommendation.
Up until now, Facebook has claimed that the WHO was the source of all wisdom on Covid. In March 2020, it gave the WHO free ads to battle coronavirus ‘misinformation’. It directed users who searched for posts on the virus to the WHO. It censored any posts about prophylactics or treatments that weren’t endorsed by the WHO, labelling them ‘false claims’, as well as censoring the proposition that the virus had leaked from a lab, which the WHO had rejected, labelling it a ‘conspiracy theory’.
Indeed, only a fortnight ago, Facebook announced that it would partner with leading health organisations, including the WHO, and other experts, such as big pharmaceutical company Merck, to help solve ‘vaccine hesitancy’ using social media and behavioural sciences, presumably to ‘nudge’ people in getting vaccinated as soon and as often as possible.
It raises an interesting question. If Facebook isn’t simply slavishly following WHO pronouncements, who is really driving its decisions as to what it censors?
Following the revelation that Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was in email communication with presidential adviser Dr Anthony Fauci, House Republicans sent a letter to Facebook asking why it censored the lab leak theories and giving the company two weeks to respond.
In that letter they wrote that, ‘In light of Facebook’s subsequent censorship of certain COVID-19 content — including content about the pandemic’s origin — these communications with Dr Fauci raise the prospect that the federal government induced Facebook to censor certain free speech in violation of the First Amendment’.
Until recently, Facebook has censored any suggestion that the virus leaked from a lab but in late May after US President Joe Biden announced that the lab leak theory needed more investigation, Facebook announced that it would ‘no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps’.
That prompted Republican senator Ted Cruz to speculate that if Facebook was censoring content about the origins of COVID-19 on behalf of the government it was a ‘very dangerous admission’ because it could be argued that Facebook was operating as a state agency and that opened a very significant legal liability.
Certainly, the revelation of Fauci’s communications with Facebook have given the impression that there was, as Cruz says, a ‘systematic effort to mislead the American people’ with Facebook and Big Tech operating in concert with Fauci to silence any views that exposed the role Fauci had played in funding the EcoHealth Alliance, which in turn funded the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
With that role now exposed, Dr Peter Daszak, the president of the EcoHealth Alliance, has recused himself from the inquiry by the Lancet into the origins of the pandemic because he failed to declare his ties to the Wuhan Laboratory of Virology, which was conducting research into coronavirus in bats and the glaring conflict of interest that posed.
Shortly after Fauci’s emails were published Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram went to comical lengths to suppress mentions of the correspondence, which were flagged by its third-party ‘fact checkers’.
As Luke Rudkowski, founder of an independent news outlet reported, he wasn’t even allowed to share a joke that Fauci was now recommending that people wear face masks over their eyes so they couldn’t read his leaked emails. He was told by a fact checker that he had to delete it because it was ‘missing context’.
As former deputy prime minister of Britain Nick Clegg who is now vice‑president for global affairs and communications at Facebook admitted to the European Commission ‘independent fact-checkers are not necessarily objective because they have their own agenda’. You don’t say.
Facebook has taken a particular interest in vaccines. Its rules prohibit posts that claim vaccines are ineffective or cause blood clots and normally, it deems posts acceptable if they include ‘credible information about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines from the World Health Organization’ although it appears that that rule no longer applies.
As concern about vaccines grow, Facebook’s task become greater. It deleted the Instagram account of an Irish TV presenter Aisling O’Loughlin for spreading COVID-19 and vaccine ‘misinformation’. It removed a comment by Dr Tracy Høeg on the number of COVID-19 paediatric deaths claiming that it violated ‘community standards on spam’. Yet the doctor had only cited the numbers from the Centres for Disease Control and the American Academy of Paediatrics. It removed a Facebook group for Ohio Advocates for Medical Freedom, a non-profit that supports legislation to give people exemptions to vaccine mandates which had 40,000 members.
Facebook is far from the only offender. Google’s YouTube and Microsoft’s LinkedIn engage in the same game. More disturbing is the way Big Tech works hand-in-glove with Big Government.
At the G7 summit, US President Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a charter to defend against ‘new and old challenges’ including ‘disinformation’. There was, of course, no definition of ‘disinformation’. Presumably, as Humpty Dumpty told Alice in Through the Looking Glass, ‘When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less’. At a recent press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that ‘the President’s view is that the major platforms have a responsibility related to the health and safety of all Americans to stop amplifying untrustworthy content, disinformation, and misinformation, especially related to COVID-19, vaccinations, and elections’ and that there’s ‘more that needs to be done to ensure that this type of misinformation; disinformation; damaging, sometimes life-threatening information is not going out to the American public’. In Britain, an ‘Online Safety Bill’ has been drafted with the intention of blocking social media sites if they don’t take down disinformation or ‘legal but harmful content’.
Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of the pandemic has been the way in which it has normalised censorship. It has become so insidious and ubiquitous that a great many people are simply unaware of it existence. Yet as Goethe rightly observed, ‘None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free’.
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