There was a time when Youtube and other big tech companies justified their censorship of various opinions and views on the basis that unqualified people really shouldn’t be challenging scientists. That has now been taken a step further: Scientists shouldn’t be challenging science. Dave Cullen, the Youtuber who interviewed Cahill in the first place, is milking the news here as much as he can, but no reasonable person can blame him. This is appalling:
Cahill’s interview had been viewed 450,000 times. That’s not surprising. Whatever about her political views, which wouldn’t be my cup of tea, and maybe not yours, her scientific qualifications are impeccable. Here’s part of her (very long) biographical page from UCD:
Prof. Dr Dolores Cahill is a world-wide renowned expert in high-throughput proteomics technology development and automation, high content protein arrays and their biomedical applications, including in biomarker discovery and diagnostics.
Integration of proteomics and recombinant protein and antibody arrays and technology development to advance research programmes in the areas of Auto-immune diseases and Cancer.
A major focus of our research is the generation of collections of recombinant proteins using protein expression/cDNA library technology and its application to cell biology and biomedicine.
Biomarker discovery involving profiling the humoral response or antibody repertoire in serum to identify protein panels which could potentially be used as a diagnostic tool for patients with various conditions such as auto-immune diseases or cancer
The woman is, literally, an immunologist. Her life’s work has been in studying the human immune system, and how it works.
Of course, that doesn’t mean she’s right. But it does mean that during a global pandemic, she’s at least worth hearing out, doesn’t it?
Tim argued last week that she should have been on RTE to give her views, and challenge the consensus, and although (as regular readers may have divined by now) Tim and I aren’t always on the same page, he was absolutely right about that.
Anyway, what’s the reason for the deletion? Youtube’s message to Cullen suggests that it’s because the video “violated the terms of service”, which Cullen (reasonably) takes to mean that it featured somebody disagreeing with the World Health Organisation. And he’s right, isn’t he? For one thing, there’s no other obvious explanation. For another, Youtube basically said as much last month:
In total, the misleading videos had been viewed more than 62 million times.
Among the false claims was the idea that pharmaceutical companies already have a coronavirus vaccine but are refusing to sell it.
YouTube said it was committed to reducing the spread of harmful misinformation.
The researchers suggested “good quality, accurate information” had been uploaded to YouTube by government bodies and health experts.
But here’s a question: Who, in Youtube, decides what “harmful misinformation” is? That is, note well, two words, not one. They’re not committed to combatting “misinformation”, they’re committed to combatting harmful misinformation. That requires them to make two judgements, not one. First, does this video contain objective truth? And second, if we feel it does not contain objective truth, is the video potentially harmful?
This is, by definition, a grey area. For example, if you were to upload a video to Youtube saying that Mayo had the all-Ireland title stolen from them this year because they were definitely going to win the Sam Maguire before Coronavirus intervened, that is, objectively, misinformation. Or is it? Perhaps it’s just an argument which other people will disagree with, passionately, and call misinformation.
Is it harmful? Probably not, but who knows? Maybe there’s a severely mentally unwell Mayo fan out there who could see that video and be tipped over the edge by it.
What if the video goes further, and suggests that Mayo have not only had the title stolen, but that the whole Coronavirus is actually a conspiracy against Mayo to ensure that they couldn’t win the title? Not a real virus, but a fake scam by Leo Varadkar, a Dub, and Simon Coveney, a Corkman?
That’s more obviously misinformation, but again, is it harmful? Possibly, if the aforementioned mentally unwell fan decides to believe it and assault Varadkar and Coveney.
The difference is that the latter is obviously a conspiracy theory, and that probably makes a decision to ban the video a little easier, if you believe it’s harmful.
But who’s making these decisions, and what are their qualifications?
Youtube haven’t just removed a video, and denied Cahill a platform, as many proponents of this kind of thing argue. You’ve all heard the argument by now, so many times you can probably recite it: “Free speech does not entitle you to a platform, Youtube does not have to host your content”.
And that’s true, so far as it goes, but it ignores something more important: Dolores Cahill is a scientist. Youtube has removed her video on the basis that it is false and misleading. Which means, in essence, that Youtube is calling Dr. Cahill a liar. It’s not just “denying her a platform”, it’s saying to the world “this woman is misinforming you”.
If that’s the case, then we, and Dr. Cahill, have a right to know on what basis that implicit accusation is being made. Who made it? What are their qualifications?
What did she say, specifically, that was inaccurate?
She, and we, deserve answers. Because (and this is something the left used to agree with, before they found new allies in big corporations) no company should have this kind of power in a democracy.
Anyway, here’s the full interview, again. Whether she’s right, or wrong, Professor Cahill has been treated disgracefully here: