Accuracy in Media

Scientific American is now outraged, like so much of the progressive press, that the social media companies aren’t censoring information in the “right way.” The “right way” as detailed by Scientific American insists it should be done, of course.

As AIM reported before, the moment that moderation is insisted upon, it’s going to be done the way the moderators desire, not the way any outside commentator insists. This is why that moderation should probably be as to what is legal and what is not –– a clear set of rules, and that’s that.

But Scientific American wants to insist that social media about abortion should be run its way, in a piece headlined, “How Abortion Misinformation and Disinformation Spread Online.”

“With reproductive rights being dismantled, social media companies need to stop propagating lies,” the subhead says.

Quite why Roe, then Dobbs, change how conversations should be censored isn’t quite explained. But the real point here is that the claim is “science” while the reality is that it’s not a series of scientific claims being made.

“Perhaps no medical procedure is subject to more misinformation than abortion, and social media and search engine companies have been too stagnant in their efforts to stop the spread. Access to safe abortion is reaching a point of no return, and we no longer have time for this level of inaction on abortion mis and disinformation.”

The problem with this claim is that the information described as mis- or dis-information is not in fact something scientific on either side. So claiming the authority of “science” to determine what may be said doesn’t work.

Misinformation has been shown to influence people’s decisions—and in this case the decisions being influenced are about reproductive health, with the potential to lead to tangible consequences such as shame around abortion decision-making.

Shame is a human, or moral, response and so not subject to the strictures of scientific proof. It’s simply not possible to claim “science says!” about it.

“These search results primarily stem from crisis pregnancy centers, which are legal but unethical.”

That’s not a scientific claim. What is really meant there is that it’s legal that these people get to say what I disagree with as a moral matter – that’s not science. This isn’t even good logic:

“For instance, basing a decision off of abortions post-15 weeks is illogical and misleading considering that the vast majority of abortions (about 93% as of 2019 in the U.S.) are performed at or before 13 weeks,” according to the piece.

Evidence about abortions post-15 weeks is excellent evidence when making decisions about abortions post-15 weeks. As evidence about pre-13 weeks is excellent evidence about abortions pre-13 weeks.

And here’s the nub of the real argument being made:

“The rise of mis- and disinformation about abortion demonstrate how political and religious ideologues are able to successfully game an Internet system that has inadequate checks and balances.”

To translate that into the day-to-day language of the country, how dare people be allowed to say things I disagree with?

Scientific American is, as the title suggests, supposedly a magazine involved with matters scientific. It ranks as number 15 in websites for science and education. It gains some 8 million visits a month from that position.

Science is important, hypothesis, evidence, proof, the system is exactly what improves the world over time. That a supposedly scientific outlet runs articles that reject that as a logical pathway damages the system of science itself. Both abortion and free speech are arguable concepts much in contention. But the argument that the one should be limited to support the other is, whether it’s right or wrong, simply not a scientific one. Science means science, right?




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