At the beginning of 2020, the news of a strange, new, deadly virus that originated in Wuhan, China went out like shockwaves across the globe. Almost immediately, the social media scene became abuzz with millions of voices reacting to the news of a virus that would threaten their health, jobs, futures, and very lives.
As reports began to flow out of China that the virus had possibly originated through a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, social media began circulating this possibility. But before the public discourse got too carried away with a free discussion of the virus origins, social media fact-checkers decreed in early 2020 that such conversations contributed to misinformation and banned any user that purported such a view. The experts had spoken, and those who dissented would be silenced.
After summarily declaring that the Wuhan lab leak theory was so untrue that it could not even be spoken of, Big Tech platforms such as Facebook, had a policy change several months later. The experts had spoken again. This time they determined that now the lowly rank-and-file Americans should be permitted to discuss the lab leak theory that it would have been dangerous for them to discuss only months before.
Granted, these are private sector companies that enact social media censorship. But the massive size, liability protections, and political connectedness of Big Tech call into the question whether or not Big Tech companies have control over public discourse that has grown beyond the proper extent of the private sector. Indeed, many of these private sector moderators have a power over public discourse that sometimes carries a greater sway than even the government itself.
However, such power in Big Tech hasn’t kept the influence of big government out of content moderation. For instance, in the case of the Covid lab leak theory, social media executives communicated directly with government bureaucrats to determine what content to remove. Such actions turned the content moderators into the government’s proxy henchman. As if this were not enough, some have advocated for Big Tech to be formally and legally directed to take down posts that the government considers misinformation.
Is this censorship at the bidding of “the experts” truly the type of public discourse that America can thrive in? We live in a day in which there is widespread civil disagreement on issues ranging from immigration to Covid, and from critical race theory to gun control. Just about every party has the same facts to work with, but many come to differing conclusions. Yet, for practically every issue, there is an “expert” who attempts to establish the acceptable narrative.
America has a long heritage of open discussion and debate of facts under the microscope of the public square. While censorship and the tyranny of the experts might be the status quo in some societies, there are few things more dangerous to a free-thinking society. Those at the top must not control the state of public dialogue.
Facts and ideas are the currency of civil discourse. The powers that be should not leverage their clout to suppress the open and robust discussion of the facts. This is America. Every thinking person should be permitted to civilly discuss and review the facts before them. Such an environment is critical for free-thinking citizens to draw their own conclusions about the pressing questions that confront our nation -without Big Tech censorship and the tyranny of the experts.