How the concept of “misinformation” was used to silence dissenting voices


The concept of “misinformation” or “misleading, false and/or harmful information” has been repeatedly invoked by Big Tech media companies and governments to justify the suppression and invalidation of information and perspectives they disapprove.

It has been used by Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and national health authorities to delegitimize or silence views they deem to be false or harmful to the public interest. But the concept of disinformation is indeed very slippery and wide open to ruthless exploitation in the name of political or ideological causes.

Take the case of American podcaster Joe Rogan. It hosts the podcast with the largest audience in podcast history, leaving mainstream media like CNN far behind. Rogan asks tough questions and brings in controversial guests. He does not deal with cheap sound bites, but with extended interviews of several hours. There are now calls from a range of public figures, from the US surgeon general Vivek Murphy to musical artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, to Prince Harry and Meghan Marklefor Spotify to censor Rogan for spreading false anti-vaccine information.

What sparked this campaign to silence Joe Rogan was a recent interview he conducted with Twitter-censored virologist Dr Robert Malone (here some excerpts of the interview) to discuss a number of issues related to pandemic policy, including the deployment of Covid vaccines.

Dr. Malone is a vocal critic of the pharmaceutical industry and the vaccination campaign. He is vaccinated himself, but feels that the mass administration of the vaccine to all age groups is a reckless experiment that puts people’s lives and health unnecessarily at risk, given that the long-term risks of the vaccine remain unknown and that many people being vaccinated are at very low risk of Covid-19.

Was Joe Rogan guilty of spreading “misinformation”, as the likes of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Prince Harry claim, by allowing Dr Malone to voice his concerns about pandemic policies on his podcast?

One would think that this question could be settled by simply deciding whether or not one agrees with Dr. Malone or finds his arguments persuasive. But that would be naïvely to assume that in any serious political or scientific disagreement, a party to the disagreement can be identified with authority, before the argument even took offas the author of “misinformation” to be shut down, while the other, as the bearer of Truth, to receive a red carpet.

If so, public debate and disagreement on high-stakes issues could be short-circuited in advance by a censor under the guidance of an elite class of hand-picked philosophers or scientists. But it’s starting to look a lot like the death of science and the birth of totalitarianism.

The question in dispute is therefore not whether we I am okay with Dr. Malone’s assessment of the vaccination campaign, but if the the simple act of interviewing this controversial individual makes Rogan complicit in the spread of “disinformation”. I very much doubt it, even though Joni Mitchell and Prince Harry think otherwise.

Accusations of misinformation certainly carry a certain rhetorical “umph”. They have an air of scientific rigor and objectivity. The person leading the charge immediately assumes a position of epistemic and possibly moral superiority over the accused.

After all, if I accuse you of peddling “misinformation”, that means I must be more “scientific”, more informed and more in touch with the “facts” than you are. By opposing “disinformation”, it may seem that my motives are irreproachable.

If the motives of disinformation accusers are as pure as beaten snow and the content of misinformation is simply determined by inconsistency with clear scientific fact, then why has the concept of “misinformation” become so politicized and contested? ?

Is it simply because ignorant and uninformed people don’t like to hear their lies exposed? Or could it be that the term is being used dishonestly to arbitrarily silence people with whom the censor disagrees?

It seems fair to assume that some statements genuinely constitute “misinformation” – for example, the statement that drinking lots of tea will cure severe cases of Covid-19. Likewise, it’s hard to deny that certain types of information are inherently dangerous or harmful, for example a YouTube video making bombs.

Fair enough. But scratch beneath the surface, and it quickly becomes clear that the category of “disinformation” is infinitely malleable and very easily weaponized for political and ideological purposes. In practice, “misinformation” is very much in the eye of the beholder and is rarely deployed in a politically or scientifically neutral way.

This becomes clear when you consider how accusations of disinformation have been weaponized during the pandemic to selectively suppress certain views deemed politically unacceptable, until the “right people” start to air them.

For example, for a long time Facebook criticized virtually all claims linking SARS-CoV-2 to a lab in Wuhan as wrong or misleading – even though some top scientific experts considered the lab leak hypothesis plausible. . When experts Facebook relied on, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, admitted the lab leak hypothesis couldn’t be ruled out, Facebook embarrassingly reversed itself (here’s a detailed account of these events). As a result, the hypothesis of a laboratory leak was no longer considered to constitute a quack conspiracy theoryor “misinformation”.

Again, consider the fact that a corona round table of highly qualified scientists (Dr. Kulldorff from Harvard, Dr. Bhattacharya from Stanford, Dr. Gupta from Oxford and Dr. Scott Atlas from Stanford) hosted on March 18, 2021 by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was abruptly deleted from youtubeallegedly because at least one of the participants was critical of the practice of masking children.

Apart from the fact that fact-checkers at Google, Facebook and Twitter are hardly qualified to examine the merits of the opinions of highly qualified scientists on a subject as complex as disease control, how can the decision of media platform to censor contested scientific opinion on community masking (or any other issue) as an item of “misinformation”?

Is it because a majority of scientists disagree? In this case, you should delete all unpopular scientific opinion before it has even had a chance to be publicly considered, and to endorse a crude majority view of scientific truth, which is completely contrary to the spirit of open scientific inquiry.

Or is it the fact that the request in question is not accepted by an official scientific authority, like the WHO or the CDC? But “official” opinion could only be a gold standard of scientific truth if two things were true: first, that all official experts will automatically converge on the same “truth”; and second, that some people, because of their position as “official” experts, are so intelligent, or wise, or virtuous, that their statements can be considered as infallible wisdomand could never be corrected or proven wrong by being challenged in public.

However, there is absolutely no reason assume that a medical expert appointed to the World Health Organization is more likely to share truthful and reliable information than a medical professor at Harvard or Stanford Medical School. Science doesn’t work that way, nor any field of knowledge. To believe otherwise is to grapple with an extraordinarily naïve and childish conception of expert knowledge.

Accusations of disinformation are constantly leveled against those who threaten the opinions held dear by the censor, and almost never against those who reaffirm the views of censorship. For example, Twitter aggressively censors opinions that question Covid vaccination campaigns or support the development and use of cheap and safe pharmaceutical treatments for Covid-19, but they gladly turn a blind eye. blind to false and misleading claims that support their own story.

Here are some examples of false and/or misleading claims that have been the subject of free admission via Twitter and Youtube:

  • gross exaggerations of the dangers Covid-19 poses for young and healthy people
  • the misleading and arguably fraudulent use of PCR “case” data despite repeated warnings from experts that it was a flawed diagnostic tool
  • false claims suggesting that the vaccines are all “perfectly safe” for anyone, despite clear evidence that some Covid vaccines are associated with worrying increases in the incidence of diseases like myocarditis, especially in young populations
  • the constant equation of “death from” and “death with” Covid-19
  • numerous defamatory claims about critics of Covid vaccination policies, including the claim that they are all ‘anti-vaxxers’.
  • statements implying that ivermectin is a drug intended exclusively for horses.

All of these claims are blatantly “false or misleading”, but Big Tech giants are turning a blind eye to them. Why? Because they are swimming in the same direction as the narrative they are determined to convey.

Make no mistake: “misinformation” is not a politically neutral scientific criterion of accuracy, but a powerful tool of political propaganda and persuasion.

It is imperative that the proponents of authoritarian political censorship, marching under the banner of “disinformation detectors”, do not prevail, because if they do, then the public sphere will become a hall of mirrors, in which lazy, the selfish mantras of a few powerful players bounce, virtually unchallenged, from platform to platform, while dissenting voices, no matter how clever or insightful, are relegated to the shadows and dismissed as the mad rantings.

This article was republished from David Thunder freedom blog. To verify her video explaining her goals.

David Thunder is a researcher and lecturer at the Institute for Culture and Society of the University of Navarre. Other works by David Thunder


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