Let's Renew Shame for the Censors
The overwhelming indifference to Twitter's recent display of censorship shows that we need more social pressure to discourage government censorship
While I was trying to take a break from the world this Christmas, David Zweig became the latest journalist to write about how Twitter manipulated its algorithms for hiding, blocking, and deplatforming information at the request of government and political actors. What made Zweig’s investigation into this particularly interesting is that it is entirely around the question of what COVID information Twitter was permitting people to see.
I’ve been following Zweig for quite some time. As the pandemic progressed, he became one of my core COVID groups, which was about 20-30 people focused on COVID data and developments. We were all doing what we would normally consider basic reporting on source information, scientific studies, what experts were saying, what the CDC was reporting, and how the core data was shaking out.
Zweig’s piece at The Free Press is a good starting point. I am not at all surprised that Twitter was manipulating the visibility of information on their platform. My own tweets were frequently caught up in these censorship dragnets. As one of his most powerful examples, Zweig points to a tweet from Kelley K (now writing at) in which she was censored for objecting to false information and linking to data directly from the CDC.
This is all so awful and frustrating and I could go on at some length about how bad it is that we’re trapped in this information ecosystem where true information is suppressed at the request of our own government. There is a time and place for that.
For now, my primary worry is that while this government manipulation of truth is exactly what we have been trained from grade school to shudder at, so many people seem entirely nonplussed over the revelations.
I thought we had a cultural agreement that this kind of active manipulation of the truth was something that would instantly and instinctively repulse us if we were to encounter it in real life. This is why we make high schoolers read 1984, this is why we have fifty movies about the evils of the Hollywood Blacklists, this is why the word “McCarthyism” is a slur about how government pressure is evil and those in government with a censorious bent are to be reviled and disdained.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Matt Shapiro's Marginally Compelling to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.