Opinion

Social Media Censorship Is Scary

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Posted: Aug 01, 2020 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Social Media Censorship Is Scary

Source: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

One of the many great things about being an American is that we have the right to freedom of speech. I may not agree with what my neighbor has to say, but I will fight to the death for his or her ability to say it. This concept was a founding principle that is now in jeopardy because of the monopoly power wielded by social media giants.

An example of this disturbing trend occurred this week when a video from several frontline doctors who questioned the status quo position on COVID-19 treatments and protocols was summarily scrubbed from most top internet and social media sites. 

After going “viral,” the video was immediately taken down by Twitter, YouTube, and several other prominent platforms. Unfortunately, many Americans missed the opportunity to watch the video before it was removed.

The reason for removal stems from the concern that the content contained in the video was misinformation about hydroxychloroquine (an extremely politicized drug used to treat COVID-19) and other information about the virus. 

It would have been great to have been able to discuss the content of the video within this opinion editorial, but unfortunately, the video was censored by Big Tech so rapidly that even I have not been able to watch the entire video. 

With that being said, this type of “cancel culture” creates an environment where people are mostly exposed only to their small polarized echo chambers. They are less likely to encounter alternative views and information, which exacerbates division.

Coronavirus, like many issues in America, has been politicized to a point where medical professionals are shut out of the discussion if they don’t agree with the status quo. Isn’t the media supposed to present all angles and give credence to experts who have alternative opinions?

The idea that simply disagreeing with the masses or dissenting from government mantras results in such backlash is disturbing in the least.

Perhaps John Stuart Mill said it best, “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

The main issue with censoring information and alternative opinions is that it reduces the ability of one to critically think and analyze facts. The information in the video could have been a complete hogwash. Or of a riveting new discovery, or a mixture of both. Unfortunately, millions of Americans will likely never know what the doctors said in the video.

In America, we treasure the idea of a robust public discourse. In many ways, Americans engaging in debate is how we have made major progress. Questioning the status quo can lead to very good outcomes and should be welcomed, not banned. Imagine if abolitionists or women’s rights advocates were banned from stating their opinion because those in charge simply disagreed with their positions.

The behavior by social media companies and other tech giants to quell certain opinions and information does no good, except to keep those in power in the driver’s seat.

Christina Herrin (cherrin@heartland.org) is the director for Free to Choose Medicine, a project of The Heartland Institute, a non-partisan, free-market think tank headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.