Health officials got things wrong, and so did their social media censors

Opinion by Zachary Faria

The reality of using censorship to fight “misinformation” is that “experts” lie or get things wrong, and therefore, real debates get stifled. This leaves everyone dumber and less informed when tech companies and others decide to put their thumbs on the scale.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged this in an interview talking about how the problem of “misinformation” is “a really tricky one because there are things that are kind of obviously false, that are maybe factual, but may not be harmful.” Zuckerberg wondered whether you would “censor someone for just being wrong if there’s no kind of harm implication of what they’re doing.”

To provide an example, he used the pandemic. “Just take some of the stuff around COVID earlier on in the pandemic where there were real health implications, but there hadn’t been time to fully vet a bunch of the scientific assumptions,” Zuckerberg said. “And unfortunately, I think a lot of the establishment on that waffled on a bunch of facts and asked for a bunch of things to be censored that, in retrospect, ended up being more debatable or true.”

No kidding? If only people had been warning against censorship on Facebook and other social media sites for years before you and others decided to become the arbiters of truth and science.

This was entirely predictable, especially during something as volatile as a pandemic. Health officials repeatedly flip-flopped on the efficacy of face masks and were wrong about school closures and the efficacy of vaccines in preventing infections, and were almost certainly wrong about the origins of the virus. In some cases, health officials lied to the public to try and influence people into their preferred ways of living, as Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted.

The quick trigger from social media sites to embrace censorship reinforced those falsehoods and mistakes. By refusing to allow people to question public health officials, they gave those officials an air of authority that could not be questioned. When those officials did get things wrong, they often did not reevaluate their positions because they did not have to. Vaccine mandates, school closures, and lockdowns were allowed to continue until politicians decided to step in and do their jobs or people simply decided they were over the restrictions.

The damage done, particularly to children through school closures and other restrictions, is incalculable, and social media sites such as Facebook contributed to that. If Zuckerberg is smart, he will learn that the lesson here is that he and other social media sites should not allow themselves to be the censorship tools of politicians or bureaucrats. Facebook and other tech companies should be out of the “misinformation” business entirely.

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