One of the more pernicious pretexts for social media censorship is medical misinformation. The category has been used by some platforms to ban all pro-life content. But it’s really taking off on Twitter in the age of the Wuhan Virus pandemic.
1. There is an argument for removing actual actionable misinformation. That’s a fairly narrow category. Encouraging people to use actual fish cleaner might qualify. Putting forward exaggerated or incorrect claims for actual medications that are the subject of debate isn’t it.
And, of course, Twitter is censoring examples of the latter.
2. Removing calls to defy social distancing is not an issue of medical misinformation. That’s a question of political dissent. And Twitter’s erasure of David Clarke’s tweets was straightforward political censorship. Twitter can choose to censor political views, but it should be honest about what it’s doing, instead of pretending that it’s protecting people from medical misinformation.
Censoring political views is dangerous. It can lead to the exact opposite reaction of the one intended by the censors.
3. The consensus on the Wuhan Virus continues to evolve. Twitter’s censorship can be unhelpful when it interrupts evolving conversations. There have been ongoing debates about the means of infection and the best ways of treating it. Attempting to silence people based on what some people in Twitter’s leadership consider to be the current consensus is inaccurate and unhelpful.
4. Twitter has refused to censor misinformation spread by Chinese Communist authorities. It has however censored conservative figures in the United States and Brazil. But Twitter knows better than to offend the ChiComs. That is its hypocrisy in a nutshell.