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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: So much for censoring ...

by John Brummett | July 20, 2021 at 2:00 a.m.

The most popular post on Facebook on Friday and Saturday came from a woman whose name I decline to mention.

I invoke her only because of the distressing relevance to today's topic--social-media irresponsibility--of this far-right conspiracy theorist and former gym owner who tragically got elected to Congress from Georgia.

She entered that chamber this year amid such wild declarations of incendiary lies that Congress immediately denied her any committee assignments.

Over the years she had posted her "likes" on social media posts indicating approval of the execution of prominent Democrats and suggesting the Parkland and Las Vegas shootings were staged for liberal political benefit.

She posted on Twitter on July 11 that vaccinations are causing thousands of serious illnesses but that social media was barring anyone from saying that ... from saying, that is, the thing she was saying on social media.

Now Facebook's analytics subsidiary says her post Friday led the world in terms of views and reactions and shares.

Here's what she wrote: "This is how communism starts. The White House is working with Facebook to censor your post which is violating your free speech because people want to discuss (on FB) a non-FDA-approved vaccine that the Biden [administration] wants to force you to take."

The post was larded with false statements. Then the orgy of lies got distributed more widely than any other Facebook post.

And that's symptomatic of the problem at the root of her ever-bogus outrage.

First, the Biden administration is not trying to force anyone to take the vaccine.

The federal government instead is trying to encourage people--to plead with them--to take the vaccine, so that lives might be spared, schools attended safely by children, hospital space made available and economic activity fully unbridled.

Only 99 percent of the people hospitalized nationwide with serious virus complications are unvaccinated. States with the lowest vaccination rates somehow seem to have the highest infection counts and the most stressed hospitals.

Second, the White House is not working with Facebook to censor anti-vaccine posts. Joe Biden himself, chronically given to ill-advised verbosity, said last week that Facebook was killing people. That's hardly working with Facebook, which is firing back at Biden that it doesn't deserve blame.

The surgeon general is monitoring Facebook's public posts for false reports raising misinformed fright about the vaccine and alerting Facebook to such posts with a request that the social-media giant, in its editing responsibility, consider removing them or at least not repeating them.

Third, it is not a restriction on anyone's free speech for Facebook to take down a post. A private enterprise is not required to let anyone say anything in its forum.

For example, the Voices page editor would have been within her private supervisory rights to delete from this column any barrage of vulgarity in reference to this Georgian monstrosity into which I might have sunk a few sentences back. Maybe I was merely thinking it and didn't write it.

That's how America's constitutionally permitted free expression applies. A private enterprise could stop me from saying what I want to say within its private product, but the government couldn't arrest me for shouting the same thing from the street corner.

Finally, neither any societal communist principle nor its frequent partner called totalitarianism is occurring in the Biden administration's disapproval of Facebook and concern about the threat to public health of unchecked nonsense about virus vaccines.

Here's another thing that's not happening: government spying.

On Friday, the White House reporter for Fox News, a propaganda outlet mildly less nuts than the Georgia woman with no name, asked Jen Psaki, the White House press spokesman, how long the White House had been "spying" on people's Facebook posts in search of virus misinformation.

It is not government spying for persons in the government, concerned about a giant and powerful social media platform allowing posts that provide false information that harms public health, to read public Facebook posts and alert Facebook to some of them it finds egregious to seek review and action.

As Psaki explained to the Fox "reporter" who in fact was a Fox falsifier and inciter, the act of reviewing Facebook posts is no more a matter of spying than reading the mainstream media and linking or clipping articles.

When an elected politician sends me a message indicating displeasure with something I've written, he is not spying on me. He is delighting me.

What we need is for Facebook to exercise its responsibility and private power to take down posts not because they're demonstrably false, because so many things get said that are demonstrably false, but because they are both demonstrably false and dangerous to public health.

A White House that asks Facebook to do that is not doing any communism or spying. It's trying to protect and lead.

People who call it communism and spying are viruses themselves, either of ignorance or cynical dishonesty, or a toxic blend.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Print Headline: So much for censoring ...

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