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Facebook, YouTube erred in censoring COVID-19 ‘misinformation’

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10.06.2021

Labeling misinformation online is doing more harm than good. The possibility that COVID-19 came from a lab accident is just the latest example.

Social media companies tried to suppress any discussion of it for months. But why? There’s no strong evidence against it and evidence for other theories is still inconclusive. Pathogens have escaped from labs many times and people have died as a result.

Social media fact-checkers don’t have any special knowledge or ability to sort fact from misinformation. What they have is extraordinary power to shape what people believe. And stifling ideas can backfire if it leads people to believe there’s a “real story” that is being suppressed.

Misinformation is dangerous. It can keep people from getting lifesaving medical treatments, including vaccines. But flagging it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. It’s much better to provide additional information than to censor information.

Part of the problem is that people think they know misinformation when they see it. And those most confident of their ability to spot it may be least aware of their own biases. That includes the fact-checking industry within the mainstream media, who were caught removing earlier posts on the lab leak theory, as well as social media “fact checkers” who aren’t accountable to the public.

Earlier this year, I interviewed physician and medical podcaster Roger Seheult who said that he was........

© The Japan Times


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