Facebook – Facebook’s speech suppression argues for repeal of Section 230 | News, Sports, Jobs
Or if Arkansas Tom Cotton did. “We still don’t know where coronavirus originated. Could have been a market, a farm, a food processing company,” he said in January 2020. “I would note that Wuhan has China’s only biosafety level-four super laboratory that works with the world’s most deadly pathogens to include, yes, coronavirus.”
Cotton never said he was certain the virus came from a lab leake. But as a Trump supporter, he was quickly smeared, as liberal writer Matthew Yglesias shows in a painstaking analysis — for pushing “conspiracy theories” (CBS News), “spreading rumors that were easily debunked” (Politico), “repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked” (Washington Post).
In each case, Yglesias points out, writers mischaracterized what Cotton said.
One great threat to the free transmission of ideas remains: social media that routinely suppresses free speech. A prime culprit is Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook.
In April 2020, Facebook slapped “warnings” on 50 million COVID-19 items and adds that 95% of readers don’t seek the original content. It boasts that it “reduces the distribution” of information rated as “false” by “fact-checkers.”
Until last week, Facebook was suppressing for more than a year information suggesting the possibility that the virus leaked from e Wuhan lab.
Despite Facebook’s boasted bans, doubts about China’s and Facebook’s insistence that COVID came from China’s live animal markets have percolated up in politically unlikely quarters. Among those taking seriously the lab leak are:
Nicholson Baker in New York magazine last January.
Longtime New York Times science reporter Nicholas Wade May 2 in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
A group of 18 bioscientists calling on May 13 for a deeper investigation into COVID origins, including the lab leak theory.
Then, on May 26, the Biden administration announced it was actively investigating the lab leak hypothesis. Only after the close of business east of the Rockies did Facebook announce it would “no longer remove the claim that Covid-19 is man-made or manufactured.”
So, for nearly 16 months, Facebook denied readers information about a serious theory.
Facebook has been licensed to censor by Section 230 of the 1996 telecommunications act which was intended to, and for some time did, encourage the free flow of information. It does that by relieving websites of liability for information they transmit or refuse to transmit.
There’s increasing talk, among Republicans and Democrats, of repealing Section 230, “to force Big Tech to take more responsibility for the editorial decisions they take.”
Facebook’s record on conspiracy theories has been wretched. It was happy for years to spread media stories on Trump’s supposed collusion with Russia. And Facebook was happy for months to stifle any mention of the theory that COVID-19 emerged from a lab leak in China. That’s zero for two, on two huge stories, with both errors pointing in the same political direction.