The Last Straw For Big Tech’s Censorship?
Censoring Scott Atlas Should Be
The Last Straw For Big Tech’s Censorship
Google-owned YouTube removed video of a presidential advisor discussing COVID-19 lockdowns. Anti-trust action and legislation must cap this abuse of power.
By Jonathan S. Tobin 14, 2020
If the coronavirus pandemic has proved anything it is that most Americans and their leaders are more concerned with their safety than with preserving their freedom.
Six months into the coronavirus era, most, though not all Americans may be willing to continue granting extraordinary powers to the government to deal with a threat to public safety. But the questions that they should also be considering is whether that same deference should be extended to big tech companies to censor discourse about the pandemic and what, if anything, can they do to prevent international monopolies from shutting down free speech.
The latest instance of censorship is so extreme and arbitrary that concern over the willingness of companies like Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to shut down speech they don’t like ought to transcend the political differences that divide Americans. Or at least it would if the question of what can or cannot be said about the pandemic wasn’t bound up with partisan politics and the presidential election.
Regardless of whether you agree with Dr. Scott Atlas about whether the cost in terms of lives lost and damage down to the country of lockdowns justifies them, Google’s ability to remove him from the virtual public square ought to make reining the power of big tech monopolies a national priority.
Removing All Dissent
YouTube, which is owned by Google, removed a video of an interview with Atlas conducted in June originally posted by the Hoover Institution where he serves as a senior fellow. In it, Atlas, a prominent neuroradiologist and professor at Stanford University Medical Center as well as a commentator on public health issues, spoke of his belief that the pandemic lockdowns might have done more harm than good. Since then, his opinions have become of greater interest due to his appointment in August as a presidential advisor and a member of the White House coronavirus task force.
That fact alone ought to make it vital that the public should be able to hear his opinions about the pandemic. YouTube, however, removed the interview from its video streaming service this past weekend for allegedly violating its terms of service. While the video is no longer available, the Hoover Institution has published a transcript of the interview with Atlas.
The justification for this move is similar to those given for the many other instances of YouTube censorship of videos about the COVID-19 crisis. The company has taken upon itself the obligation, as it sees it, to prevent the spread of conspiracy theories about the pandemic as well as misinformation that might compromise public health.
Both Google and YouTube, it should be remembered, have been severely criticized for standards that have effectively reduced the reach of conservative sources of news and opinion sources including The Federalist.
The company, which has an effective monopoly on the Internet outside of China, has continued to maintain that its decisions are not influenced by politics. It has, however, been open about its willingness to shut down what it considers dangerous conversations about the pandemic. While quiet on the specifics of its algorithm or who ultimately makes these vital decisions, the effort subjects government officials to the same rules that seek to direct viewers to what it considers trusted sources as opposed to those that spread false information or conspiracies.
Read more at the FEDERALIST