Censorship in the pandemic era

Just yesterday we were talking about censorship taking place on the major social media platforms, how section 230 might relate to that and what, if anything, could be done about it. The conversation primarily focused on Twitter and Facebook, with their persistent habits of imposing a blackout on unpopular news under the guise of “fact-checking” and canceling the accounts of people offering insufficiently woke opinions. But they aren’t the only players getting in on this game. Alex Berenson has had some experience with this sort of suppression and he’s been on the receiving end of such actions at the hands of Amazon. In an opinion piece at the Wall Street Journal, Berenson describes his experiences and relates how this is a detriment to public discourse and democracy. (Subscription required)

Information has never been more plentiful or easier to distribute. Yet we are sliding into a new age of censorship and suppression, encouraged by technology giants and traditional media companies. As someone who’s been falsely characterized as a coronavirus “denier,” I have seen this crisis firsthand.

Since June, Amazon has twice tried to suppress self-published booklets I have written about Covid-19 and the response to it. These booklets don’t contain conspiracy theories. Like the scientists who wrote the Great Barrington Declaration, I simply believe many measures to control the coronavirus have been damaging, counterproductive and unsupported by science.

Amazon has said earlier that “as a bookseller, we believe that providing access to the written word is important, including books that some may find objectionable.” The company sells “Mein Kampf” and “The Anarchist’s Cookbook.” But when it comes to Covid, Amazon has a different standard. At least half a dozen other authors have emailed me that their books have been pulled. Amazon won’t disclose how many, or other details about how it picks books to censor.

Barenson’s self-published booklets on the pandemic and the government’s response to it have been yanked from the virtual shelves. The same has happened to numerous other authors who don’t toe the government/liberal line on these purely academic and scientific questions. Their offerings either disappear entirely or come with blaring warnings about inaccuracies and inauthenticity.

I’ve had a bit of experience with this myself as it turns out. A few weeks ago, shortly before I went on vacation, I published an article discussing the results of a study conducted in Denmark that found face masks provide only “statistically insignificant” protection to the wearer unless they are made from only the highest quality medical filtration materials. (To be fair, the study did note that cloth or surgical face masks did provide greater protection to others when worn by infected individuals who are coughing or sneezing.)

In no time at all, I was receiving feedback from some of my followers on Twitter saying that my tweet linking to that article was producing a “questionable content” warning, asking if the user still wanted to proceed to the link. While my account wasn’t banned, the message had been sent and I heard it loud and clear.

But here’s the thing. I wasn’t just pushing out some opinion piece claiming that masks were a garbage conspiracy and demanding that people stop wearing them. I was reporting the results of a study conducted by doctors and government health officials on thousands of patients over a significant period of time. And what source did I cite when referencing the statistics from that study? It was an article in the New York Times. And yet it was flagged as being dubious.

I quickly went and checked to find a tweet from the Gray Lady’s account linking to their article. The link in that tweet worked just fine and didn’t produce any sort of warning about questionable content. So how was it that I was singled out for this special level of attention? The key difference was that while the Times reported on the study, they went out of their way to repeatedly cast doubt on it. But I made note of that fact and reported on their objections in my article as well.

The pandemic isn’t the only subject where things like this happen. If you publish any sort of article on the debate over transgender issues and dare to suggest that boys shouldn’t be allowed to compete in girls’ competitive sports even if they “identify” as girls because of their inherent physical advantages, you will receive similar treatment. Once again, this is hardly a “settled” issue in the medical community and it’s only become doctrine in hard-left progressive circles. Some professional medical associations only recently stopped classifying gender dysphoria as a mental disorder and others still classify it that way. Nothing in the field of genetics has ever emerged to suggest that persons born with a typical 23rd genetic pairing including a Y chromosome can be a woman or that those without a Y chromosome can be a man. And yet mentioning these facts will see you labeled as “transphobic” and banished from woke society on the larger social platforms.

I could list more examples, such as “climate change denial” fetishism, but most of you are doubtlessly already familiar with them. The point here is that we aren’t talking about content that promotes violence, criminal behavior or hatred. These are ongoing debates involving serious questions of medicine and science. Yet our woke betters in Big Tech have taken it upon themselves to declare all of these debates to be settled issues and they will shut down anyone who foolishly offers an opinion on the “wrong” side of the conversation. This is, as Barenson points out, nothing short of censorship. But since it’s the private sector doing the censoring and not the government, there’s precious little to be done about it.