Whack-a-mole doesn’t work for social media

(Anderson) Herald Bulletin

Social media companies might need to rethink their efforts to control the spread of disinformation.

Take “Plandemic,” a 26-minute video that accuses Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, of being part of a conspiracy that would line his own pockets through the sale of vaccines.

The video that began circulating this month also claims the Italian version of the flu vaccine contains the coronavirus and that wearing masks can make people sicker than not wearing them.

The guy behind “Plandemic” is California filmmaker Mikki Willis, and its star is Judy Mikovits, a woman Willis describes as “one of the most accomplished scientists of her generation.”

That’s probably not how most scientists would describe her.

In 2009, Mikovits coauthored a paper published in the journal Science. She was among 13 researchers who claimed to have found that a mouse retrovirus might contribute to chronic fatigue syndrome.

The film claims the paper “sent shock waves through the scientific community, as it revealed the common use of animal and human fetal tissues were unleashing devastating plagues of chronic diseases.”

Actually, the paper was retracted two years after its publication. The journal explained that multiple laboratories had failed in efforts to confirm the report’s findings, and it cited poor quality control in a number of experiments on which those findings were based.

The second controversy came that same year when Mikovits was fired from the laboratory where she worked. The lab accused her of removing notebooks and other proprietary information. In the film, Mikovits claims she was “held in jail without charges,” but the truth is she was arrested on a warrant.

Soon after the film surfaced on Facebook and YouTube, those companies began trying to remove it from their platforms, saying the disinformation it contained represented a health threat.

They quickly found themselves in a game of whack-a-mole. Whack it over here, and the video pops up over there. Whack it over there, and it pops up somewhere else.

And in the midst of it all, the film seemed to gain in popularity.

That’s what often seems to happen. Folks like Willis and Mikovits become folk heroes, standing up against the liberal thought police at Big Tech.

The people helping to spread their message remain loyal, maybe even more so now that the social media police seem to be trampling on their freedom of speech.

The answer, of course, is for the social media giants to stop playing whack-a-mole.

Let people share their conspiracy theories and respond with the truth. Truth and falsehood compete constantly in the free marketplace of ideas.

Our hope, always, is the truth will win.

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