It was deeply disturbing to me that throughout the COVID epidemic many highly credentialed doctors and researchers were getting de-platformed for anything that remotely questioned the government's position on anything related to COVID.

Science is about asking questions, testing hypotheses and independent research corroboration. There have to be checks and balances.

I expect the chilling effect from this experience will remain in the scientific community for a long time.

To me the core of this issue is that sometimes government officials truly believe their missions are more important than free speech. They may think that their job is actually to suppress free speech unfortunately.

Especially common is for national security to override free speech in the minds of government officials. They can easily convince themselves that they need to suppress certain viewpoints in order to save many lives. It just coincidentally also saves their own jobs.

I think unfortunately that young people would prefer less free speech and for the government to enforce more confirming perspectives.

One other core issue for people who want the tech companies to stop listening to government to consider is the fact that the government has police, guns, prisons, and legal sanctions available to enforce it's policy decisions.

The central issue in these cases are the difference between the following two scenarios:

1. The CDC or other government agency says "We believe X is misinformation, do with that advice what you will".

2. The CDC or other government agency says "We believe X is misinformation, and if you don't act on that, we will penalize you in some way".

The former is perfectly legitimate, and exactly what e.g. public health agencies ought to be doing: offering opinions and advice to the private sector and public. The latter is a first amendment violation.

Presumably, some of these cases will also turn on whether there was an implicit regulatory threat in the "recommendations" given. In some cases, according to this article, the threats seem to have been fairly explicit.

My personal take on this is that s.230 protections should not extend to companies using any kind of specialized "algorithm" to dictate what appears in a user's default feed on the website.

A feed or timeline view should be simply that: a scrollable list of the most recent visible things from people you have shown a specific interest in (follow/subscribe/whatever), and it should be the default view for the platform. Anyone deviating from that to add their cool special sauce should be excluded from those protections because that's editorializing their content.

If they want to have some "explore" section that does the algorithmic magic, sure, but it should be opt-in.

Carve out specific rules for users not logged in that can show the basic stuff (e.g.: "most interacted" -- likes and/or comments, "Latest from most subscribed"), perhaps a carve-out by region.

Disallow banning people except specifically for extreme ToS violations, harassment, and other criminal activity. Apps must provide robust anti-harassment features (block lists, inability to tag users who have blocked you, those don't show up in search, etc.), reporting mechanisms, etc.

If you deviate from these you lose s.230 and are open to being sued the same way newspapers are for their editorial content.

This is a good summary of some of the recent revelations into how far the USG has been pushing into strong-arming online and traditional media outlets alike into suppressing critical speech.

I think it’s interesting how the author tip-toed into tying in the Hunter Biden laptop scandal, where the FBI lied to Facebook to get it suppressed.

It’s a hot potato, but it’s exactly where these efforts lead, from ostensibly “well-meaning and necessary” public health efforts into brazen political coverups.

I encourage all those who care about this but do not work in medical research to join the government or get a PhD or MD and be prepared to solve the next problem that crops up. Then, you will have some more context on the challenges faced during public health emergencies.

In the meantime I'd love to see a truly non-partisan, fact based, recognizing limits of human knowledge postmortem of the US response and how it could have been improved, given the information that was available at the time. The vast majority of postmortems I read of COVID assume knowledge today was avaialble then, that the data is unambiguous, and the conclusions trivially follow from the data, and start with a conclusion, rather than starting with data and forming a collection of hypotheses, and attempting to produce reasonable estimates on the probabilities of those hypotheses. I don't know quite who would be capable of doing this.

I don't know how letting social media companies dictate political discourse became acceptable.

It doesn't matter what your political stance is. Facebook should not be the one saying X is acceptable, Y is not. It's fucking arbitrary, and scary that a private company is telling us what we can talk about. It's not framed as "hey this is our opinion and you can talk about these things elsewhere", it's framed as "this is what's right for society, how could you discuss these other things?".

Social media was a mistake.

> All Americans have been deprived—by the United States government—of their First Amendment rights to hear the views of Alex Berenson, as well as Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff...

I think this will be hard to prove. The Declaration is easy to find and read (it has its own DNS name). Is there a right to hear a message along a particular channel?

The heart of the issue:

> public admissions by then-White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki that the Biden administration was ordering social media companies to censor certain posts, as well as statements from Psaki, President Biden, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas threatening them with regulatory or other legal action if they declined to do so

It’s always funny to see that somebody’s thesis contains the word “wrongthink.”

Over the past few years I’ve noticed an strange plethora of people that seemingly act like the only important cultural touchstones that are worthy of referencing are 1984 and Animal Farm. It’s lazy and tired in my opinion (I’m more of a Huxley fan, and I agree with Asimov’s assessment of Orwell [1])

I’m not familiar with Tablet Magazine, but this whole article feels like a very belabored effort to sound highbrow and alarmist about hating the mods.

It will never cease to be utterly hilarious how social media has led a whole generation of grown adults to slam up against the phenomenon of “the mods” that those of us that were very active in online communities in the 80s, 90s or early 00s have been familiar with for decades.


The government has been shaping public opinion though traditional news media for some time, look at all the "ex" government employees employed as "analysts" at MSCBC, CNN, etc. Since they can't inject talentless talking heads directly into social media's newsfeeds to push their agenda they exert pressure in a different way. It's not surprising at all.
> The question of how the Biden administration has succeeded in jawboning big tech into observing its strictures is not particularly difficult to answer. Tech companies, many of which hold monopoly positions in their markets, have long feared and resisted government regulation. Unquestionably—and as explicitly revealed by the text message exchanged between Murthy and the Twitter executive—the prospect of being held liable for COVID deaths is an alarming one.

I don’t think this threat of liability is in large part responsible for tech companies’ increased tendency for censorship. Keep in mind that many of the most egregious COVID era de-platforming events happened during the Trump administration.

The primary change that’s responsible is the political shift within these companies, with many workers openly advocating for various forms of censorship and de-platforming. As well as leadership that cannot resist such demands, even when they are from a tiny (but loud) minority of the company.

So one thing really should be cleared up - the 2nd paragraph of this article talks about incorrect criticisms (i.e. misinformation) of an article

>> They were called eugenicists and anti-vaxxers; it was falsely asserted that they were “Koch-funded” and that they had written the declaration for financial gain.

It then says

>> Yet emails obtained pursuant to a FOIA request later revealed that these attacks ... were the fruits of an aggressive attempt to shape the news by the same government officials

The source is a paywalled opinion piece, so I can't get to the bottom of it. In my opinion this claim is serious if true, and entirely bad-faith and undermines the credibility of the article if untrue.

There's a huge difference between filtering out or demarcating content believed to be inaccurate or attempting to misinform, versus astroturfing against said articles through false accusations. Which is it, and what's the evidence?

I think regardless of the contents or topic of this write-up the conclusion is easy: stop using corporate social media exclusively (... I say on HN). The key to a healthy web is POSSE: Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere.

This doesn't mean just POSSE in isolation though. It means going out of your way to establish/participate in non-corporate controlled communities.

A movie was made about the whole laptop scandal.

Just before election. It Was quite shocking when I tried messaging links to news articles on Facebook and they were being blocked. Then to find out that FBI asked Facebook to do this.


Facebook admitting.

Uh... how can it be OK to organize to communicate an anti-lockdown message, but not OK to organize a rebuttal... by the people tasked with communicating national health policy?

Not to mention the large "plot-hole" in the narrative at the start -- I guess the Biden administration was getting an early start in October 2020?

Basic reason dies when you join a political tribe.

If anyone involved in this piece had ever mentioned Operation Choke Point during the last fifteen years this might have been better argued.
I could care less what's "legal" or not in this instance, this isn't the kind of society I want to live in with regard to speech rights—public OR private.

The whole system needs to be revised in favor of individuals, not corporations or the government.

If that requires new laws or amendments, so be it.

I have no opinions on the article itself, but I am interested in whether the same actors also acted in coordination to suppress Lab Leak given that they were also implicated.

> Rather, they were the fruits of an aggressive attempt to shape the news by the same government officials whose policies the epidemiologists had criticized. Emails between Fauci and Collins revealed that the two officials had worked together and with media outlets as various as Wired and The Nation to orchestrate a “takedown” of the declaration.

I have no idea if Lab Leak theory is still viable, or rather if it can ever be fully proven, but the censorship it got from private entities leads me to believe there was government support involved.

Latest on Lab Leak:

Apparently Biden did all this stuff during the 2020 election.

The bastard must have a time machine now.

Not saying it didn't happen, or isn't concerning; just pointing out that calling the case Missouri vs Biden is a tiny bit... revisionist?

Also, the article is needlessly partisan. According to its timeline, thd bad behavior started under Trump and persisted under the Biden administration, but somehow only the Biden administration is being called out.

This reminds me of the question: if a jailer asks an inmate to have sex, and they do, has a crime been committed? Perhaps not, but when the government "asks" for something it's hard to interpret it as anything other than "bad things are going to happen to me if I don't." Unlike some tech company, you can't really run away from the government.
Social media apps are, for the most part, a cancer to humanity. This article is just one more proof of it.

And the majority of people who, for the most part, demand for more censorship on these public platforms whenever an arbitrary content moderation issue arises... deserve all the propaganda coming their way from these corporate behemoths tag teaming with the government.

For background: “The Great Barrington Declaration was sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian free-market think tank associated with climate change denial.”
I've replaced the baity headline with somewhat more neutral language from the subtitle, in keeping with the HN guidelines ("Please use the original title, unless it is misleading or linkbait"). If someone can suggest a better—more accurate and neutral—title, preferably using a representative phrase from the article text, we can change it again.

Edit: I also added a question mark since the claim is obviously a divisive one.

The only entity that is able to commit acts of violence upon anybody they wish with almost full impunity is not the individual, not these massive silicon valley companies, but your very own government.

"Do what we tell you to do or we'll regulate your poo-chute into the dirt."

"If you don't agree with a tax we're instituting, too damn bad, you're paying it."

"If you disagree with our policy, you can just vote come next election! Your vote has power!" - sure.

Very interesting the author pokes at the Hunter Biden laptop debacle. It was shocking to see in real time the information suppressed and hidden from the general public like that. It's obvious that the removal of the content was a political decision just based on the speed it was suppressed by most mainstream media outlets, either encouraged by Twitter's (potential) internal staff bias or from the article-mentioned government agency interference.

I'm ignorant regarding Covid because I've never studied in that field in my life. - the virus, the vaccines, the fatality, etc. etc. etc. However, to see other professionals with related credentials under their belt with conflicting opinions shut down and relegated to the "naughty corner" of the internet by their own governments in cahoots with politically-funded thinktank organizations behind "misinformation" or "fact-checker" warnings on social media is abhorrent. The media outlets and talk-show representatives making entire segments to laugh at the "fake scientists", creating musical bits to promote vaccination, it's all very lame and stupid.

Reminds me of Copernicus trying to prove the de-facto government (the church) that their teachings were wrong about geocentric model of the solar system - the church did their best to suppress, launch smear campaigns and even threatened with imprisonment for someone's opinion. I swear, some bastardized version of science is being corrupted into the new religion for scared/hopeless people.

I wonder - who holds the government accountable for their actions, _really_?

I think the answer is nobody - society in general has lost their cohesiveness and ability to collectively "rise up" and express their dissatisfaction, instead choosing to delineate themselves between arbitrary political lines of beliefs that honestly don't have as much of an effect on the individual as they'd like to think.

Nobody feels a sense of responsibility for taking care of their nation, because their nation isn't taking care of them. It's treating them as a common cattle - work every day, forced to give up large parts of your income to powerful people you'll never see in your life so they can shuffle the deck of cards and make decisions that will nine times out of ten negatively affect you.

It's intentional - the US as a nation is slowly collapsing from this - it's only a matter of time before the US is able to create their "ministry of truth" and have their own "great firewalls" - it won't be rack-mount equipment and direct access to carrier infrastructure like China they'll say - but it'll be through back-room regulation threats and shady hand-shake deals behind smoke and mirrors.

The irony is that this is being posted in a heavily moderated forum. The rule of BBS, forums, newsgroups, chat rooms, etc has always been and will always be that quality is proportional to the willingness of the mods to wield that ban hammer.

As for the free speech absolutists they are perfectly free to go post whatever nonsense they want on 4chan, 8kun, or Truth Social (heh). The rest of us are free to not go visit those places, and advertisers are free to not run ads there and have their ads associated with content that will tarnish their brand image.

I recently got terminated for objecting to a company mass gathering next month where attendees fly in en made, socialize for 24 hours (with a 5k fun run in there) and fly back the next day because it sounds like a body stressing plan and while I’m vaxxed and boosted my underlying health condition could make long COVID really severe. Not a gamble I want to take.

The fact I questioned leadership and asserted it was exclusionary to those with health concerns by not having a virtual alternative, well, this is Texas and it would’ve been smarter for them to fire me for no reason. Have an appointment for a legal consult to figure out if name and shame is the next step.

As long as UTSW’s update last slide shows R anywhere near 1 I’m going to use caution. I haven’t survived this lifetime disability and flourished by taking medical advice or alternative advice too stringently. There’s quacks in both.

So according to this article big-tech fears the US government and do as they are told or at least react to cues about what and who should be censored. On the other hand - some fraction of big tech banned the previous US president, while he was still in office, with no such fears.

What am I missing?

This article is misleading because the author fails to define "censor." The article repeatedly claims "censorship", where apparently none occurred.

If you don't believe me, ask yourself this question:

Does this comment itself "censor" the article in any meaningful way?

The title ends in a question mark

Betteridge's law of headlines is an adage that states: "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."