That the Wuhan fried bat ‘flu is now looking more like the Ooops we made a booboo Wuhan ‘flu is interesting, even fascinating. It’s going to, hopefully, trigger something of a rethink on how varied things are done.
One of which needs to be, or at least should be, how fact checking is done on all these internet sites. Because what is now becoming apparent is that the system doesn’t work:
The language was dutifully echoed by the mainstream media. By raising the possibility of a lab leak, Senator Tom Cotton was accused by the Washington Post of ‘fanning the embers of a conspiracy theory that has been repeatedly debunked by experts’; the New York Times said the Wuhan laboratory had been ‘the focus of unfounded conspiracy theories promoted by the Trump administration’; and National Public Radio reported that ‘scientists debunk lab accident theory’. In the Guardian, Dr Daszak wrote an article headlined: ‘Ignore the conspiracy theories: scientists know Covid-19 wasn’t created in a lab.’
Yet it was taken by ‘fact checkers’ at Facebook, Wikipedia and in the mainstream media as ruling out that too. For months, therefore, any discussion of lab leaks got tagged as ‘conspiracy theory’.
The problem is that any such system of fact checking is going to simply reinforce the conventional wisdom on any specific subject. Which isn’t, as we know, how science is supposed to work. Nor, actually, is it how free speech is supposed to work for that is meant to work along the same lines as science.
We have a further problem in that those fact checkers are dominated by college educated and thus rather woke millennials. This is not to say that college educated and therefore woke millennials are always wrong but it’s certainly only just the one world view among many. Yet those definitions of what is wrong, or a conspiracy theory, are going to be dominated the opinions of those doing that very defining. Even a Marxist would recognise this idea if it were the capitalist class doing the defining.
It isn’t just that Facebook – and other – fact checking failed over the Wuhan fried bat ‘flu. It’s that any such system which contains a centralised definition of “the truth” will only ever define the truth as what is centrally approved as the truth. Which is why we shouldn’t use such a system.
No, it’s not a problem with who is running it or how. It’s a failure of the very idea of such a system.