The Corner

Media

The ‘Misinformation’ Excuse for Censorship

(Pixabay)

The Twitter user “Interpolations” points us to these responses to an Atlantic article that questioned student masking:

The Atlantic piece was written by an epidemiology professor at UC-San Francisco, Vinay Prasad, who concluded that the potential harms of masking young children may outweigh the benefits. He wrote nothing factually incorrect that I am aware of, and neither of the Twitter critics pictured above deigned to specify what they found. They have taken what is simply an opposing viewpoint and rebranded it as “misinformation,” hoping the label will lead to censorship.

It is dismaying that so many people have adopted the same censorious mindset. Last week the Washington Post ran this headline: “Misinformation on Facebook got six times more clicks than factual news during the 2020 election, study says.” The implication is that Facebook needs to more actively remove false claims, and who could be against that? Well, first note that the headline itself is misinformation. According to the text of the article, the content that received six times more clicks was not specifically alleged to be misinformation; rather, it was merely posted by “news publishers known for putting out misinformation.”

The Post article provides no examples of actual misinformation, but it does name Occupy Democrats and Dan Bongino as “publishers known for misinformation” on Facebook. I went to their pages to see for myself. Occupy Democrats mainly posts progressive memes. Dan Bongino mainly posts clips from cable-news shows and town halls. I don’t doubt that one could find factual problems on both pages with enough searching, but I saw nothing obvious. To censor either of these pages would be to go far beyond rooting out “misinformation.” And perhaps that’s the point. Dismissing entire sources of news as misinformation far more effectively narrows the boundaries of acceptable discourse than does stamping out individual ideas.

So who should get to speak on Facebook? The Post article contrasts the alleged misinformation-purveyors with “trustworthy news sources, such as CNN or the World Health Organization.” A large number of Americans will not find this situation satisfactory, to put it mildly. They have sought alternative news sources because the CNNs of the world have breached their trust repeatedly. Tarring the alternatives as misinformation will not help Americans have better political discussions. It will only further convince them that they live in a stifling, closed-minded society.

Recommended

The Latest