Google, Meta, Twitter and other platforms should not be faulted for seeking information guidance from experts including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials.
However, the fiasco that resulted in CDC announcing its major organizational “reset” last week after an external review showed years of mismanaging COVID public information, shows the danger to our country when monopoly platforms rely exclusively on politically-motivated government officials for all coronavirus information.
President Joe Biden’s Surgeon General Vivek Murthy previously demanded that these platforms censor medical misinformation which was defined by the elastically-changing standard of anything that goes against “best available evidence” as defined by these government officials.
These monopoly platforms censored vast amounts of information that did not conform with then-current and regularly-changing CDC and National Institutes of Health narratives.
Recent FOIA information dumps show that CDC officials worked to directly influence these platforms to censor specific users and content on behalf of the government and in clear violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protections. Even the White House openly admitted to its efforts to directly pressure the platforms to censor COVID information that deviated from the government’s narrative.
Studies from medical experts such as Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford, Martin Kulldorff of Harvard and Sunetra Gupta of Oxford identified in early 2021 the lack of scientific evidence that closing schools and forcing young children to wear masks provided any benefits. The results and recommendations from these studies were censored. Other studies later confirmed the same results found by these three doctors, which indicates at minimum it is a scientifically valid view and should be part of any public discussion of policy choices.
At the same time, research has clearly identified massive costs and problems of reduced learning results and rising statistics of social/suicidal problems for the children, especially the most under-privileged children. Government policies, that were influenced by teacher unions, drove censorship of any online scientific discussion on these school policies can be identified as one of the causes for these deep costs for children.
While online censorship of these counter-narrative studies prevented meaningful debate on these school policies in the USA, Sweden’s own COVID debates resulted in policy in which their schools remained open and children did not wear masks. As predicted by Bhattacharya, et al, Sweden’s students, teachers and their families did not suffer any increased risks of coronavirus sickness, hospitalizations, or deaths.
At the same time that U.S. children suffered learning losses, multiple studies now show that Sweden reaped the benefits of following its own path and Swedish students avoided the tremendous loss of learning suffered by American children in areas that shut down schools and enforced masks.
Other CDC narratives such as the idea that vaccinated people could not catch and transmit COVID to others proved false (especially as the coronavirus evolved) – yet studies that argued against the CDC narrative were routinely censored in favor of the exclusive narrative of our government officials.
Deborah Birx, who set much of the CDC COVID-19 policies, now admits that she knew all along that the vaccines don’t prevent infection or ability to transmit coronavirus to others. Widely-followed users were censored or banned for writing what Birx now admits is true.
Government pressured companies to enforce mandates that required vaccination for all employees including those with natural immunity. While Birx and CDC knew that natural immunity and vaccination had similar effects, they forced financial burden and lost jobs for these employees and their families who already had natural immunity and objected to the new vaccine.
Censorship of other medical opinions and other studies which differ from the government narrative does not bring us to optimal policy choices.
Science is never settled. Science needs constant scrutiny and debate to reach scientifically correct answers, and ensure our policies are optimized to achieve progress and fairness.
Our country, especially school children and their parents, paid a steep price for the censorship of COVID studies and policy debates.
Matthew Matthys is co-founder of a nonprofit First and Fourteenth Institute which champions free speech, free press and due process issues.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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