Pre-2016 it was generally held, even by American lefties, that bad speech should be met with good speech in the marketplace of ideas. There were some exceptions for hate speech and that was considered radical. And then 2016 happened and the new consensus was that if you called speech “disinformation”, it was now a great threat that had to be suppressed. That spread from pro-Trump speech into a number of areas, including vaccines.
And so the Great War on Speech rolls on.
False claims about the dangers of coronavirus vaccines were running rampant on social media even before Americans began receiving their first shots last week — and now the monthslong rollout to the entire population is giving bad information even more room to fester…
If mistrust — or even just confusion — makes people more reluctant to get immunized, it could imperil efforts to end the pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 315,000 Americans and 1.5 million people around the world.
And that herculean task of building public trust will soon fall to Biden, who will have to decide whether his administration should play a role in efforts to curb vaccine falsehoods online.
The First Amendment has pretty clear views on that subject.
Disinformation researcher Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. argued that the companies themselves have instituted strong policies around vaccine misinformation — they just need to put them into practice more stringently.
“People who get their content taken down will be upset,” he added, “but we’ve got a top-grade, public health crisis that’s underway, and everyone’s got to pitch in. Social media companies have to do the same.”
Censoring speech because it’s an emergency is a very original rationale. It’s always an emergency. Everyone’s got to pitch in. Loose lips sink ships.
Of course there’s no better way to create mistrust of the vaccine than through censorship.
Censorship doesn’t stem mistrust. It validates it. Just ask people living in any totalitarian country. Eliminating opposing views doesn’t mean that the mandated view wins. It just means that people don’t trust the mandated view and assume that it’s all a lie.
It’s why free countries have greater civic trust. It’s also why America no longer does.
If you want mistrust, just go ahead and censor.