Facebook Speech Suppression Pleads for Repeal of Section 230 and Zero Share Price | News, Sports, Jobs
“Lots of people have eggs on their faces” for rejecting the theory of COVID-19 lab leaks, tweeted Jonathan Karl of ABC News this week. “Some things can be true even if Donald Trump has said them. “
Or if Arkansas Tom Cotton did. “We still don’t know where the coronavirus came from. It could have been a market, a farm, a food processing company ”, he said in January 2020. “I would note that Wuhan has the only super biosafety level four lab in China that works with the world’s deadliest pathogens, including, yes, the coronavirus. “
Cotton never said he was certain the virus was from a lab leak and never suggested a leak was deliberate. But as a Trump supporter he was quickly smeared, as liberal writer Matthew Yglesias shows in close analysis – for pushing “conspiracy theories” (CBS News), “Spread rumors that have been easily debunked” (Politics), “Repeat a conspiracy theory on the coronavirus that was already debunked” (Washington Post), and “Repetition of the marginal theory of the origins of the coronavirus” (New York Times).
In each case, Yglesias points out, the authors misinterpreted what Cotton said. “Media coverage of lab leaks was a debacle” writes Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, “And a major source of that failure was Groupthink grown on Twitter.”
An attitude from the newsroom was revealed by a tweet from New York Times COVID-19 reporter Apoorva Mandavilli. “Someday we’ll stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day has not yet arrived. His assumption that China’s dictatorial and deceptive regime could only be doubted through anti-Asian prejudice shows the vain ignorance and vicious bigotry that the Times leadership apparently enjoys these days.
Such a bias is old news these days, and the Internet allows readers to seek other outlets. But a big threat to the free transmission of ideas remains: social media, which regularly suppresses freedom of expression. One of the main culprits is Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, which has become the most effective suppressor of free speech in American history.
It’s something he brags about. In April 2020, Facebook reports slaps “warnings” over 50 million COVID-19 articles and adds that 95% of readers don’t look for original content. He boasts that he “Reduce distribution” information classified as “false” by its “Fact checkers”.
Garbage inside; garbage outside. Facebook claims to rely on international and national health agencies, like the China-dominated World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control, with its ridiculous demand that summer campers wear masks this year. Its ranks of fact-checkers are undoubtedly tilted towards recent awakened college graduates drawn to its headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area off-limits to non-leftists.
The result is that, until last week, Facebook had been suppressing for more than a year – a year in which governments and citizens were making tough decisions – information suggesting the very strong possibility that the coronavirus had leaked from the Wuhan Chinese laboratory.
Democratic members of Congress are constantly pushing Facebook for more speech suppression. They seem to have no doubts which side Facebook’s processes will promote.
Despite Facebook’s touted bans, doubts over China’s and Facebook’s insistence that Covid originated from Chinese live animal markets have crept into politically unlikely neighborhoods. Among those who take the theory of laboratory leaks seriously, there are:
–Nicholson Baker in New York magazine last January.
– Longtime New York Times science journalist Nicholas Wade, May 2 in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
– A group of 18 bioscientists calling on May 13 for further investigation into the origins of Covid, including the theory of laboratory leaks.
–Former New York Times COVID reporter Donald McNeil on May 17 in Substack. You may remember McNeil was forced to quit the paper for repeating a word that offended a wealthy high school student during a Times-sponsored jaunt to Peru.
Then, on May 26, the Biden administration announced that it was actively investigating the laboratory leak hypothesis, which means it rolled back the shutdown of the investigation launched by Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. It wasn’t until after offices closed east of the Rockies that Facebook waddled (to “3:30 p.m. PT”) and announce that it would be “No longer takes away the claim that Covid-19 is man-made or made. “
So, for nearly 16 months, Facebook denied readers information about a serious theory the exploration of which could have led to a reduction in the number of deaths and infections. Nice work, Facebook!
Facebook was allowed to censor under section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which was intended to encourage, and for a time, the free flow of information. It does this by releasing websites from any responsibility for the information they transmit or refuse to transmit. Facebook’s conduct is in line with the Liberals’ withdrawal of their once-strong support for free speech, which, as leftist journalist Matt Taibbi writes, “Has been abandoned in favor of a policy that embraces technology and extreme market concentration to suppress discussion of whose topics. “
Case in point: Last fall’s New York Post article on the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, choked by ridiculously unfounded accusations of “Russian disinformation.” You haven’t seen this on Facebook, have you?
The business result is that Facebook got the advertising dollars that went to newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. The civilian result is that Mark Zuckerberg appreciates what interwar Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin said as the aspiration of the British press lords: “power without responsibility, the prerogative of the prostitute through the ages.”
There is more and more talk among Republicans and Democrats of repealing Article 230, “to force Big Tech to take more responsibility for the editorial decisions they make.” Tech moguls say it would benefit “a small number of giant, well-funded technology companies” this is already the situation today.
More likely, they fear that the repeal, as left-wing economist Dean Baker predicts, will cut profits by demanding “A huge commitment from the staff” to monitor content and a nationwide legal staff to stop trial attorneys from transporting Bay Area billionaires to local juries. Another possibility: “A massive migration to old-fashioned bulletin boards and other sites where people could post whatever they wanted without review. “
Facebook’s record on conspiracy theories is miserable. He was happy for years to run stories in the media about Trump’s supposed collusion with Russia, “a really silly conspiracy theory”, as the Wall Street Journal’s Barton Swaim said, for which no evidence has ever emerged. And Facebook contented itself for months with hushing up any mention of the theory that COVID-19 originated from a lab leak in China. It’s zero for two, over two huge stories, with both errors pointing in the same political direction. Section 230 was supposed to give us a free flow of information, but instead it gave us effective speech suppression.
The repeal could destroy Facebook’s business model, but from a society’s point of view, the optimal Facebook share price is 0.
(Michael Barone is Senior Policy Analyst for the Washington Examiner, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)