Facebook should not just ban some news but Michael Mann, Momentum, the Mirror and the Morning Star. To name just a small selection of those beginning with M. For what we’ve got here is an insistence that such social media platforms should be doing very much more to ban fake news. Yes, it is entirely obvious that Andrew Wakefield is a purveyor of Woo!, and pernicious and dangerous Woo! at that. Still:
Facebook is putting children’s lives at risk by reviving spurious MMR claims, the UK’s top health chiefs have said.
The anti-vaccination sites which promote the fake science that caused a surge in measles cases as well as conspiracy theories about other vaccines appear at the top of searches when parents use Facebook to find information about the MMR vaccine or other vaccinations.
Andrew Wakefield, the discredited doctor behind the fraudulent research linking the MMR vaccine to autism, features prominently on the sites with his film Vaxxed in which he accuses the US government’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention of a cover-up over the risks.
Unlike Google, which filters out anti-vaccination sites to promote guidance from the NHS, government or World Health Organisation, Facebook’s searches appear to be based solely on their most popular and active sites irrespective of whether they are peddling false information. The biggest anti-vaccination sites have more than 100,000 followers.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said it was “deeply concerning” that Facebook was carrying posts that spread “false and frankly dangerous ideas” about not just MMR but other vaccination programmes.
Yes, people really are dying as a result of his actions and activities. But we then run into the unsolveable problem of who gets to decide what is fake news?
Think, just for a moment, of things that are currently claimed by the authorities. Public Health England seems to be insisting that there’s an epidemic of child and adult obesity. The numbers don’t actually show this. They then argue that we must curb this in order to save the NHS money. But obese people, by popping earlier, save the NHS money. Further, they insist that we now eat more sugar which is causing the obesity – we consume less sugar per head than the past. Should we give PHE the right to determine what is fake news and what is not, so that the one can be excised from our knowledge?
There’re plenty of things to be concerned about over climate change. Most notably perhaps the oft floated idea that “deniers” should be banned from the airwaves, or banned altogether, some even arguing that such should be jailed. Or at least prosecuted – no, not entirely fringe, The Guardian has run pieces claiming this. I myself have been fingered as a denier even when all I do is insist that a carbon tax is the way to deal with it if it exists. You know, as the official government report on the subject insists.
Who gets to decide what is fake news is the important thing.
So what is fake news, and what is truth? Damore said something factually and scientifically true. The vast majority of the media decided it was false and labeled it so, and Damore got fired. The same company that fired Damore using the consensus of the media’s position to determine the truth is an amusing little coda to that, isn’t it?
The force is very strong with this idea that fake news must be banned:
Democracy is at risk unless the government and regulators take urgent action to combat a growing crisis of data manipulation, disinformation and so-called fake news, a parliamentary committee is expected to say.
In damning conclusions to a report leaked by former Vote Leave campaign strategist Dominic Cummings before its official publication on Sunday, the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) committee adds to the growing calls for tougher government regulation of social media companies. It accuses them of profiting from misleading material and raises concerns about Russian involvement in British politics.
The report is expected to say that the “relentless targeting of hyper-partisan views, which play to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans and their behaviour” posed a greater threat to democracy than more familiar forms of so-called fake news, raising particular concerns about the way online data could be manipulated to impact elections.
This is specifically about that referendum on membership or not of the EU. So, who gets to decide what is fake news? Is “The EU is a good thing” fake news? “The EU is a bad thing”? Who gets to decide an which view is banned? £350 million for the NHS is fake, Y/N, and who gets to decide?
And then there’s that rather larger point that if the censor gets to decide what can appear on Facebook then what about claims in the wider media? The opinion pages of all newspapers carry pieces which at least some, on any particular point, will claim is fake including – oft with respect to Oliver Kamm – the use of and and/or or. That a genetic male claiming they are female is correct or not? Which answer – no they ain’t, only if they have surgery or whatever they say – is fake news or not?
To give anyone the power to decide upon fake news on any part of the media is to give the same prodnoses and authoritarians the power to censor it all.
Well, except the Guardian, obviously – “It accuses them of profiting” – if you’ve not made a profit in a decade then you can’t be accused of that now, can you?