Facebook has combined two of the issues we’ve been discussing here at AIM for some time now. The minor one is the current row over what is a recession and whether we’re in one, the major how this illustrates the dangers we all face from corporate and woke censorship of the media.
The specific issue is that Facebook “fact-checked” and then marked as misleading a post from Phil Magness from the American Institute for Economic Research. OK, that’s a libertarian outlet and its thoughts are clearly – given electoral results if nothing else – not in line with those of many Americans. But it’s not the economic issue itself that’s worrying here. The actual post used the usual and normal definition of recession. As we’ve detailed here, that’s not politically acceptable to the administration in this current election season. There’s a large and definite push from the D side of the aisle to not so subtly change the usual definition of recession so that it can be claimed that America is not in one during this election season.
As a political move, this is fine – none of us think that politicians won’t shade matters to their benefit. When it becomes Facebook not just moderating but labeling as misinformation what was, until last week, the usual understanding then that is a problem. And when it’s Facebook – or the rest of the media – labeling things that are uncomfortable for one political party as misinformation then we’ve a huge problem on our hands. For if what may be said online, or in the newspapers, is being censored in this manner, then how can we find the truth of the matter?
This leads to the problem that we’ve been hammering away at for some months now. If there is a restriction on what may be said then people will set out to capture the process that decides what may be said. For that’s where power will lie, defining the argument by banishing disagreement.
Indeed, as we’ve said: Yes, Democrats complain about this when it happens to them. But then we’ve got Scientific American complaining that the censorship isn’t being done in the right way – views that should be forbidden are creeping through. Ars Technica makes the same point – more views should be banned. Fast Company tries to shut down opposing views by labeling all “misinformation”. Even when people talk about book banning they never do seem to mention the ones they think should be banned. It happens on other economic issues as well, for example in discussing what might be causing inflation. Those who go against the current administration line are labeled as producing misinformation.
This is the point that is the worry. Once there is a system – whatever it is, run by whomever – that defines what may be said then that system controls the political discussion and thus politics. We’ve now got a system that insists that dis- or mis- information may not be allowed on social media where so many of us do gain our news. So, those who control what is defined as mis- or dis- information have considerable power over us.
Note again what the Facebook description of the Magness post was. He’s an entirely respectable economist, using the definition of recession that all of us – and all economists worldwide outside the U.S. still do – would have accepted two weeks ago. His post is defined as misinformation because it’s not convenient to the current party holding political power.
Now that, that’s scary.
The entire system of “fact-checking” of what may be said on social media, or in the media, has become a system of censorship. We’d be against whoever was in control of it but it’s even worse when it’s those siding with the political part currently in power – in an election season.
There is actually a reason the First Amendment is as it is. That it’s not actually Congress itself abridging the right of free speech might be some comfort but not all that much.