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I asked our team to pause for family time this week before kids return to school. The homepage is updated daily. The Digest returns on Monday, August 2. —Mark Alexander

Thomas Gallatin / Jun. 1, 2021

Facebook’s ‘Fact-Check’ Flip-Flop

The social media giant censored the Wuhan lab-leak theory, calling it “misinformation” — until now.

One of the top reasons Facebook gives for justifying its censoring of users’ posts is to stop the spread of misinformation. It’s a disingenuous rationale no matter the earnestly declared “righteous” intentions of the Big Tech giant, as absolutely no person or organization has a corner on the truth. It was this reality, in fact, that led America’s Founding Fathers to wisely erect protection for the freedom of speech via the First Amendment. While that governs Congress’s conduct, it’s clear that Americans should cherish a prevailing culture of free speech.

It is pure hubris to suggest that an organization or entity can fairly and justly police thought. Yet it is this hubris that has led Facebook to believe it’s in a position to determine what information Americans should and should not be allowed to promulgate on its platform. It’s also an unsurprising irony that those running Facebook are often the most guilty when it comes to spreading misinformation via their media “fact-checkers” — partisans whose “facts” are more often than not better defined as opinions.

Case in point is Facebook’s recent about-face on the Wuhan lab-leak theory for the origin of COVID-19. When first broached back in March of last year, the mainstream media, out of its aggressive anti-Trump resistance, quickly derided early evidence and suggestions that the coronavirus may have come from the Wuhan Institute of Virology rather than a Wuhan wet market. The lab-leak theory was the stuff of tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracists, The Journalists™ declared, and therefore even asking questions about it was classified by Facebook’s “fact-check” army as “misinformation.”

Fast-forward to a year later, and evidence continues to grow in support of the lab-leak theory, while at the same time the validity behind the wet market claims are fading. Even mainstream media outlets have suddenly become interested in the possibility that the ChiCom Virus pandemic actually did originate in a ChiCom lab. Facebook too has flipped.

Now that the one-time “crackpot theory” that Facebook censored and prevented from being posted on its platform has become the leading explanation for COVID-19’s origin, the social media giant has shifted its stance. Facebook says it “will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps.”

While it’s true that an increasing number of public health experts have begun favoring this theory — the excuse Facebook gives for its sudden change — the reality is that political considerations were the actual motivating factors behind the censorship in the first place. As the Wall Street Journal editorial board observes, “While a political or scientific claim is disfavored by government authorities, Facebook will limit its reach. When government reduces its hostility toward an idea, so will Facebook.”

Just two years ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed, “I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy.” However, when his own political interests were threatened, Zuckerberg clearly had little hesitation engaging in censorship for the sake of Democrats. This is yet another reason why Section 230 needs to be changed to prevent this kind of politically calculated abuse of free speech rights.

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