Facebook's Speech Suppression Argues for Repeal of Section 230 and a Facebook Stock Price of Zero
"A lot of people have egg on their face" for dismissing the COVID-19 lab leak theory, tweeted ABC News ' Jonathan Karl this week. "Some things may be true even if Donald Trump said them."
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 leak and never suggested a leak was deliberate. 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), and "repeat(ing) fringe theory of coronavirus origins" (New York Times).
In each case, Yglesias points out, writers mischaracterized what Cotton said. "Media coverage of lab leak was a debacle," writes New York magazine's Jonathan Chait, "and a major source of that failure was Groupthink cultivated on Twitter."
One newsroom attitude was revealed by a tweet from New York Times COVID-19 reporter Apoorva Mandavilli. "Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not yet here yet." Her assumption that one could doubt China's dictatorial and deceptive regime only out of anti-Asian prejudice shows the vacuous ignorance and vicious bigotry that Times management apparently values these days.
Such bias is old news these days, and the internet allows readers to seek other outlets. But 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, which has become the most effective suppressor of freedom of speech in American history.
That's something it boasts about. In April 2020, Facebook reports slapping "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 its "fact-checkers."
Garbage in; garbage out. Facebook purports to rely on international and national health agencies, like the China-dominated World Health Organization and the U.S.'s Centers for Disease Control, with its laughable requirement that summer campers wear masks this year. Its ranks of fact-checkers are undoubtedly tilted toward recent graduates of woke universities attracted to its headquarters in the no-non-lefties-allowed San Francisco Bay area.
The result is that, until last week, Facebook was suppressing for more than a year -- a year in which governments and citizens were making difficult decisions -- information suggesting the very lively possibility that the coronavirus leaked from China's Wuhan lab.
Democratic congressmen are constantly pressing Facebook for more speech suppression. They seem to have no doubts which side Facebook's processes will favor.