Who decides on the authorized speech? – Daily bulletin


In July, White House press secretary Jen Psaki complained that Facebook was not doing enough to end discussions about inaccurate vaccine information. The company “needs to act faster to remove damaging abusive posts,” she said.

Official administration spokesman Biden said 12 people were responsible for nearly two-thirds of vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.

If you’re wondering how many government employees spend their time reading and saving social media posts, here’s the answer: none of them. The “finding” came from a group called the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

Who are these guys?

The Center for Countering Digital Hate, headquartered in London, describes itself as “a non-profit [non-governmental organization] which seeks to disrupt the architecture of hate and online disinformation ”, which includes“ denial of scientific consensus ”.

In an introduction to the CCDH report titled “The Dozen of Disinformation,” CEO Imran Ahmed wrote: “Facebook, Google and Twitter have policies in place to prevent the spread of vaccine misinformation; to date, not all have succeeded in applying these policies satisfactorily. “

The report states that “Despite repeated violations of the terms of service of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, nine of dozens of disinformation remains on all three platforms, while only three have been completely removed from a single platform. “

This complaint was echoed by the White House press secretary, who notably publicly harangued Facebook.

People in London don’t have to understand the First Amendment, but people speaking on behalf of the US government should recognize the problem of seeking to silence the speech of Americans discussing matters of public interest, even if these speakers are wrong. informed.

The Digital Hate Center itself can be misinformed. “Digital spaces have been colonized and their unique dynamic exploited by fringe movements that instrumentalize hatred and disinformation,” says the group’s report, using the British spelling. “These movements are opportunistic, nimble and confident to exert influence and persuade people. “

“Persuading people” is a protected activity under the First Amendment. Freedom of speech is especially vital when it comes to issues of immense consequence and public interest, such as COVID-19 and the policies put in place to mitigate public harm. People have very different views on what is necessary and appropriate, and that’s just the CDC director every five days.

“Was it the Israeli data, in particular, that made you change your mind? Bloomberg News’ Josh Wingrove asked CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky during a White House briefing on Wednesday. The topic was the Biden administration’s new plan to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all adults. Barely five days earlier, Wingrove said, she “insisted on repeating, on several occasions, that the booster injections were not necessary at the moment”.

Here’s what Walensky said that sparked the question: “Reports from our international colleagues, including Israel, suggest an increased risk of serious illness in those vaccinated early. Given this body of evidence, we are concerned that the current strong protection against serious infections, hospitalizations and death may wane in the coming months. “

Five days earlier, this statement would likely have been labeled “misinformation”. In fact, Twitter suspended journalist and author Alex Berenson for a week after writing about Israel’s data.

There are only a few major social media platforms, and if the government can pressure them to end speeches that officials don’t like, for some reason Americans will be deprived of information. just as if the government were directly censoring speeches.

History suggests this won’t last. There was a time when a handful of editors and news producers could end the coverage of a salacious story about an American president, simply by refusing to allow reporting in their pages or on their airwaves. This collegiate brotherhood was dissolved in the late 1990s when Matt Drudge, who was not a member of the club, published details of a report that a television network had refused to broadcast.

The story of what President Bill Clinton did with White House intern Monica Lewinsky became public online in The Drudge Report and, as we know, has been thoroughly verified to be true. The mechanism that controlled the flow of information was shattered.

The era of the three networks ended with new technologies and new players, and the Facebook-Twitter-YouTube axis will one day also be a relic of the past. It can happen sooner rather than later, as tech companies find new ways to anger absolutely everyone and Congress moves closer to the antitrust bill.

Facebook’s vice president of content policy, Monika Bickert, on Wednesday released a statement denying the claim that 12 people were responsible for most of the “online vaccine misinformation on Facebook.” She criticized the CCDH report for analyzing “only a small set of 483 pieces of content”, a sample that is “by no means representative of the hundreds of millions of messages” on the subject of vaccines, but she said that the company had now deleted the groups, pages and accounts linked to the 12 individuals, as well as limiting the others.

The CCDH therefore got what it wanted. In the words of his report, “CCDH’s solutions seek to increase the economic, political and social costs” of supporting or profiting from whatever it declares to be “hatred and disinformation”.

However, Americans do not have to allow a group in London to define the limits of authorized speech. Somewhere in the National Archives, there is a document that says that.

Write to Susan Shelley: Susan@SusanShelley.com and follow her on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

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