Facebook has officially censored the Wall Street Journal after one of the social media platform's fact-checking partners, Health Feedback, deemed an op-ed written by a Johns Hopkins surgeon and published in the outlet to be “misleading” and "missing context."
The op-ed, written by Dr. Marty Makary and published in the WSJ on February 18, argued that the U.S. will achieve herd immunity by April, citing a 77% drop in COVID-19 cases over the previous six weeks at the time of publication.
"My prediction that Covid-19 will be mostly gone by April is based on laboratory data, mathematical data, published literature and conversations with experts," the surgeon wrote.
Makary also argued that scientists need to be truthful about the herd immunity timeframe and stop trying to "manipulate the public" in order to control their social behavior, like mask-wearing and social distancing.
“Some medical experts privately agreed with my prediction that there may be very little Covid-19 by April but suggested that I not to talk publicly about herd immunity because people might become complacent and fail to take precautions or might decline the vaccine,” wrote the surgeon. “But scientists shouldn’t try to manipulate the public by hiding the truth.”
But Health Feedback, a fact-checking site connected to the World Health Organization (WHO), concluded that the op-ed was misleading, so Facebook censored and essentially buried the piece following the evaluation.
“Once we have a rating from a fact-checking partner, we take action by ensuring that fewer people see that misinformation,” Facebook told WSJ.
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WSJ’s editorial board responded to Facebook’s decision with an opinion piece titled “Fact-Checking Facebook’s Fact Checkers” in which they argued that “progressive health clerisy don’t like” Makary’s opinion, so they presented their opinion as a scientific fact and censored his.
The board wrote:
…the progressive health clerisy don’t like [Makary’s] projection because they worry it could lead to fewer virus restrictions. The horror! Health Feedback’s fact checkers disagree with the evidence Dr. Makary cites as well as how he interprets it. Fine. Scientists disagree all the time. Much of conventional health wisdom about red meat, sodium and cardiovascular risk is still fiercely debated.
The same goes for Covid-19. There’s still much we don’t understand about the virus and its transmission and immunity. Yet Facebook’s fact-checkers “cherry-pick,” to borrow their word, studies to support their own opinions, which they present as fact. So let’s fact-check Facebook’s fact checkers.
The board went on to argue that Facebook’s decision to censor the piece is yet another reason to revise Big Tech protection laws.
"We’ve been leery of proposals in Congress to modify Section 230 protections that shield internet platforms from liability," the WJS board wrote. "But social-media giants are increasingly adding phony fact checks and removing articles flagged by left-leaning users without explanation. In short, they are acting like publishers in vetting and stigmatizing the content of reputable publishers. The legal privileges that enable these companies to dominate public discourse need to be debated and perhaps revised."