“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”
― Harry S. Truman[Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States, August 8, 1950]
Citing health and safety concerns, Minnesota Senator (and erstwhile presidential candidate) Amy Klobuchar introduced a bill on Thursday, July 22, 2021, dubbed “The Health Misinformation Act of 2021” that would hold tech companies responsible for allowing misinformation about vaccines and other health issues to spread online. In other words, if you say something about COVID-19 or vaccines or anything else that could be seen as “incorrect,” big tech would now have a legal obligation to censor you.
For the record, this writer is pro-vaccine. This is based on the fact that it appears increasingly likely that the virus escaped a lab and that masks aren’t going to stop the virus, coupled with the fact that very few people who have had the vaccine contract COVID compared with those who don’t are some reasons why.
But that is my opinion and for the time being, you can say that you disagree with me. And I can tell you that you’re wrong and you can tell me that I am wrong. Since I happen to agree with the “accepted science” on this subject, perhaps one day soon, only my voice will be heard and yours will be silenced. If you insist on sharing your opinion you may be forced off social media by the law. That idea frightens me and should terrify you as well. We need to stand for free speech.
It was not long ago that people of all parties would say, “I may disagree with what you say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it.” That idea needs to stay alive.
Klobuchar’s bill, if it passes, will have a chilling effect on free speech and could spread to other issues as well. And we know that the government’s messaging on COVID has been inconsistent. Both parties have been interested in trying to use the power of government to stop people from talking, including attempts to limit journalism during the last administration.
Klobuchar’s most recent foray into limiting free speech isn’t the first time she’s tried to stop people from criticizing politicians or advocating for or against legislation. In 2018, she promoted legislation called the “Honest Ads Act,” stating it was “important not just because of Russia, but because of all of the shenanigans that go on in campaigns that you want to be able to police.”
The government has already begun policing what people say on Facebook. Last week, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said this:
“In terms of actions we are taking or that we’re working to take, I should say, from the federal government, we’ve increased disinformation research and tracking within the surgeon general’s office. We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”
Psaki also suggested there is a list of 12 people who are spreading “false information” on Facebook, but she did not identify them. Three days later, Psaki said, “But again, this is not about one platform. This is about misinformation that we’re seeing travel around, into the minds — the inboxes, the minds, the — of individuals, of people around the country — inaccurate information that is preventing people from taking the step to getting vaccinated. And that is, of course, a public health concern for us.”
In other words, the White House is actively suggesting that a private network act to block or censor certain viewpoints. This is much bigger than the topic of whether vaccines or masks are a good idea – and for the record I believe in vaccines and masks lest somebody add me to that list. But we need to be very concerned that the White House, no matter who is in control or what the subject is, is actively trying to suppress the expression of certain ideas. This will spread to “political untruths” about elections, political beliefs, financial viewpoints, and expression of religious beliefs.
When NBC’s Peter Alexander asked President Biden, “What is your message to platforms like Facebook?”” the President replied, “They’re killing people. The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people.”
A couple of days later, President Biden tried to walk back the comment and said, “Facebook isn’t killing people” and that they shouldn’t be “taking it personally that somehow I’m saying Facebook is killing people.”
It may be time for people to seek out alternatives than the big social media companies because this is not going to get better. Despite the gravity of the situation, apologists for the current administration who decried the prior administration’s “tyranny” are claiming that these restraints on freedom of speech are “necessary.” It will always be necessary for someone, somewhere to block what people say.
Whenever people demand that the government use force to squelch ideas because persuasion isn’t working, that is a sign that major problems are on the way.