There’s an old saying, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” It depends on your point of view – and what you’re looking for. Information is much the same. What one man calls “disinformation” may actually be accurate information. It depends on your point of view – your bias – especially when politics is involved.
The most recent example of this is the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly after the onset of the pandemic, two theories quickly arose to explain where the virus originated. The first was it originated in a “wet market” in China, where bats and other animals may play host to such viruses. The second was it originated as a leak in the labs at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China.
Since the first cases of the novel coronavirus were discovered in Wuhan, you might have concluded the virology lab leak was the most plausible explanation. Instead, Chinese officials insisted it originated in the “wet market” about a thousand miles away! Epidemiologists and other infectious disease researchers were quick to jump on this hypothesis, perhaps because it didn’t threaten their research grants. The World Health Organization, deeply connected to the Chinese government, insisted the virology lab leak was not rational and dismissed this possibility.
Facebook, and other social media outlets, labeled the virology lab hypothesis “disinformation” and quickly took steps to censor anyone who disagreed. Yet, one year later the virology lab leak hypothesis is now considered more than likely, not just by the Biden administration that earlier rejected this idea, but even by the WHO. Now the “disinformation” is quite likely the truth.
But despite this about-face on the origins of the coronavirus, the Biden White House has recently taken steps to coordinate with Facebook on taking down any information that they consider “problematic.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki admitted, “We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook.” The Surgeon General, an officer in the department of Health and Human Services, released a report with a page of suggestions on “what technology platforms can do” to crack down on certain information. The Verge reported that officials at Twitter “met with the surgeon general’s office on Monday to discuss its misinformation policies.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial board says, “It’s been clear for some time that the tech giants look to government to determine what coronavirus-related speech to allow. YouTube’s misinformation policy bans content that contradicts the evolving guidance of “health authorities.” Facebook stopped blocking some commentary on the lab-leak theory of the virus’s origins only after President Biden ordered an investigation into the possibility.”
In an earlier post (Free Speech in America), I recalled my own experience with censorship by Amazon when trying to publish a book that included coronavirus information. They were following the same approach as YouTube by banning any content that “contradicted the evolving guidance of health authorities.” Yet most of that information has since become public information acknowledged by health officials even today.
We are in a dangerous place when the government is restricting the flow of information based on their assessment of what constitutes “disinformation” – based on their political agenda. We’ve already witnessed the complete retraction of statements made by the Director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, when her bosses in the White House didn’t approve (CDC Director Caves to Politics). Why should we have any faith in any other statements coming from health officials who have been so obviously compromised?
The WSJ says “Wherever the legal line is drawn, the rise in Big Tech censorship that happens to align with government preferences ought to draw scrutiny. If it can happen on coronavirus, it can happen on other issues. Americans shouldn’t let that become the new normal.”