It is becoming a drearily familiar experience for me to receive emails from social media platforms informing me that my content has been removed for violating “community guidelines” prohibiting the dissemination of “dangerous or misleading information.” Usually, this is shorthand for any piece of evidence or analysis contradicting an official statement by a public health authority – to be precise, a specific public health authority or cluster of authorities that the platform in question has decided to treat as the Gospel of Science, very often the FDA, the CDC, or the WHO.
My latest run-in with the social media Information Tsars was an email I received on 17th July 2022 from Linkedin, notifying me that they had removed one of my posts for violating their policies on “misinformation,” and threatening to restrict my account if I continued to violate their policies. After posting a complaint about LinkedIn’s misinformation policies, I could no longer access my account, as it had been “temporarily restricted.” As I write this, I am still locked out of my LinkedIn account.
Here is the item that was deemed by Linkedin’s information Tsars to constitute
“misinformation” of the sort that they cannot tolerate on their platform:
So what did I say to deserve to have this post taken down by Linkedin, leading shortly thereafter to a “restriction” of my account and a threat to make the restriction permanent?
Actually, nothing more than (i) cite a scientific study being shared by a Harvard epidemiologist, corroborating many other studies that have shown, time and again, that children are at negligible risk of suffering severe disease from Covid-19, and (ii) question the wisdom and ethical propriety of an FDA decision to approve Emergency Use Authorisation for Covid vaccines for children as young as 6 months old.
Emergency Use Authorisation requires a special justification to show that ordinary protocols for approving a drug should be by-passed. The FDA has produced weak and speculative evidence about the potential benefits of the Covid vaccines for children, and no solid evidence to show children face such a serious risk from Covid as to give rise to a public health “emergency.”
This is not a quirky opinion, by the way: it is corroborated by the World Health Organisation, one of those hallowed pillars of wisdom that LinkedIn would have us revere, which affirms on its own webpage that “children and adolescents are generally at low risk of infection, and if they become infected it is likely to be mild.”
Why would someone get in trouble with a social media platform hosting debate and discussion about public affairs for raising doubts about the ethical and scientific propriety of a governmental decision affecting the lives of millions of children? How it it possible that citing a scientific study that cuts against an official government narrative can get your post taken down, or even get your account “restricted”?
The explanation is simple: Anything that puts in question an official statement by a public health authority is considered by Linkedin to be incriminating material that can spark a corrective intervention by Linkedin’s Philosopher Kings.
In a society that prides itself on being “progressive,” “scientific,” and rational, Linkedin’s “professional community guidelines” give middle managers a license to take down your posts and eventually restrict your account for the sin of contradicting the decisions or judgments of public health authorities.
Here is the exact wording of Linkedin’s policy on “misinformation”:
Do not share content that directly contradicts guidance from leading global health organizations and public health authorities.
What does this actually mean, in practice? It means that some select persons, just because they got nominated to a “public health authority” or a “leading global health organization,” are protected by Linkedin from any robust criticism from the public or from other scientists.
Anyone who tries to post data or evidence suggesting that a recognised public health authority might actually have gotten something wrong, on a matter of public “guidance,” will find their post taken down forthwith by Linkedin, no matter how respectable the rival evidence or authority they bring to the table may be.
Let’s think about the implications of that: public health authorities are treated by Linkedin as gurus, or “popes” of modern science, whose utterances should be received with unquestioning reverence. Linkedin has thus formulated policies of content moderation that effectively quash serious debate and give automatic cover to any potential errors or poor judgment calls on the part of public health authorities.
A scientific or medical claim immune from public criticism may be true or false. But we cannot have full confidence in it, unless we know that it can be properly debated and put to the test in the public square.
When rational and scientific debate is artificially constricted, society languishes in ignorance, and public authorities become arrogant and complacent, in the knowledge that their statements are sheltered from public challenge.
Just look at how life-saving information about the early stages of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak was carefully kept under wraps by the Chinese Communist Party, or how Facebook arbitrarily suppressed evidence suggesting the virus escaped from a laboratory, only to later reverse its policy in embarrassment.
Human beings crave for certainty, especially during a crisis. However, we cannot be certain, from our limited historic vantagepoint, which of our scientific beliefs will eventually be vindicated and which disproven. Only candid and open scientific debate, free from intimidation and censorship, can expose the strengths and limitations of each position over time.
Linkedin is killing the possibility of open intellectual, political and scientific debate among its members, and fostering something that comes closer to a beehive than a true human community: astonishingly, one of the conditions for remaining a member in good standing is refraining from contradicting whatever ideas come out of the CDC, FDA, or WHO.
According to correspondence I have received from Linkedin, “We have these policies in place to help keep LinkedIn a safe, trusted and professional network for everyone” (email from “LinkedIn Member Safety and Recovery Consultant,” received 19 July 2022, excerpted below).
Linkedin is indeed an incredibly safe place – if you are an official at the FDA, CDC, or WHO, or one of their devotees. If, on the other hand, you believe in serious and robust scientific inquiry, or have any genuine intellectual curiosity left in you, you are unlikely to survive the scrutiny of Linkedin’s Information Tsars for long.