The COVID pandemic unleashed Big Tech censors in a big way. Day after day, a handful of 20-something Silicon Valley leftists tweaked their algorithms to block, demonetize, and de-platform anyone who dared say anything that wasn’t in sync with government talking points, on the grounds that such “misinformation” posed a serious threat to public health.
Of course, the disease itself proved this campaign to be pure folly. COVID has officially claimed more than half a million lives in the U.S. How many would have died had Big Tech not decided to act like Big Brother? Our guess is, half a million.
So now that COVID is fading from the public’s list of concerns, we can all go back to normal, and social media platforms will once again live up to their promise of being the online public square, open for the free exchange of ideas. Right?
Not. Bloody. Likely.
Already, Big Tech is sharpening its algorithms to go after the next target – imposing speech codes regarding “climate science.”
A new report from a United Nations global warming “working group” complains that “misinformation” spread on social media poses a dire threat to humans because it’s contributing to “delayed action.”
“Rhetoric and misinformation on climate change and the deliberate undermining of science have contributed to misperceptions of the scientific consensus, uncertainty, disregarded risk and urgency, and dissent,” the report says, and “has sowed uncertainty, and impeded recognition of risk.”
The report goes on: “Resultant public misperception of climate risks and polarized public support for climate actions is delaying urgent adaptation planning and implementation.”
The Los Angeles Times’ editorial page was delighted, braying about how the U.N. report “broke new ground by finally highlighting the role of misinformation in obstructing climate action.”
The editors say that “It was the first time one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s exhaustive assessments has called out the ways in which fossil fuel companies, climate deniers, and conspiracy theorists have sown doubt and confusion about climate change and made it harder for policymakers to act.”
You can bet that Big Tech censors are nodding their heads and figuring out how to combat this terrible “threat.”
We’ve already had a first-hand experience with this when Google’s AdSense informed us recently that it wouldn’t run ads on two of our editorials challenging the accepted global warming narrative. Google says these editorials contained “unreliable and harmful claims” because they “contradict authoritative scientific consensus on climate change.”
AdSense graciously lets publishers click a “review” button, which supposedly prompts them to take a second look at the ruling. Our appeals were denied. No explanation given.
So, we tried to ask Google for clarification. If we were supposed to “fix” these violations, we wanted to know what, exactly, needed to be fixed. But since there’s no option to contact a sentient being, we filled out a “contact us” form asking for the company – twice – to provide specifics on what fixes would satisfy the AdSense thought police.
We never heard back. Not even an acknowledgement that our message had been received.
But then, one day, the supposedly offending articles suddenly disappeared from the list of violations. Again, there was no notice. No explanation. Nothing. We could try to reach out again, but what’s the point?
In our dealings with Google, we were reminded of an old Saturday Night Live ad for the “phone company” with Lily Tomlin doing her Ernestine telephone operator character, in which the tag line is: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.” Replace “phone company” with Google, Facebook, Twitter, GoFundMe, or any number of other “woke” tech giants, and the ad is as relevant today as it was in 1976.
Actually, today’s tech giants are worse. The AT&T-Bell System monopoly might have provided lousy service, but its telephone operators didn’t cut off phone calls because they didn’t like what people were talking about.
Some readers might respond to this by saying “So what if Big Tech blocks certain content? These are private companies and they’re free to manage their networks how they see fit.”
There’s a problem with that proposition. Their unprecedented size means Big Tech can impose huge roadblocks to general sharing of information, which is worrisome enough. But as we’ve noted in this space, they are increasingly censoring content at the behest of government.
Just last week, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy demanded that Big Tech companies provide the government with data about COVID-19 “misinformation” on their platforms. Murthy had previously complained that misinformation “can cause confusion, sow distrust, and undermine public health efforts, including our ongoing work to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Notice how Murthy’s lament almost perfectly matches what the U.N. is now complaining about when it comes to global warming?
So, keep this in mind. The left isn’t just going to hand back the controls it amassed during COVID. It will look for new ways to use these tools – emboldened by the public’s demonstrated pliability in the face of “public health” authoritarianism – to control still more aspects of our lives.
All in the name of the “greater good.”
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board