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When Big Tech Causes the Truth to Stumble

God’s grievance against the nation in Isaiah 59 was their rejection of truth. A culture of lies had been fostered, resulting in oppression and injustice. Truth had stumbled in the public squares, preventing righteousness from entering and provoking God to judge the nation (Isa. 59:14). What does it look like when truth stumbles in a nation’s public squares?

 

We can answer this question by simply looking around us. Truth is under assault in America—particularly in the digital mediums we rely upon for the delivery of information. Last year, Big Tech companies attracted a modicum of attention when they used broad and ambiguous policies to de-platform syndicated radio host Alex Jones for “glorifying violence” and “using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims, and immigrants.”[1] Following this, YouTube suspended political commentator Stephen Crowder’s ability to monetize his channel with 4 million subscribers because of a pattern of “egregious actions” that had “harmed the broader community” and violated the vague YouTube Partner Program policies.[2][3] Specifically, Crowder had made disrespectful references to Vox video producer Carlos Maza’s sexuality, but he did not violate any specific policy, according to an in-depth review by YouTube.[4]

 

Censorship by Big Tech companies in 2019 included eliminating 93% of traffic to top conservative news outlets,[5] removing the term “Christian” from auto-fill search functions, blocking posts that linked to the pro-life organization Live Action,[6] incorrectly placing Live Action on its porn domain block list before banning it entirely,[7] adjusting algorithms to suppress videos that do not violate any specific policy but whose content the company considers to be “borderline” because it doesn’t match their politics or worldview,[8] and shadow banning—a practice of banning someone who doesn’t know they’ve been banned because they keep posting, but nobody is shown their content.[9]

 

This trend has only accelerated in 2020 under cover of the coronavirus pandemic. The Atlantic reports, “Covid-19 has emboldened American tech platforms … Today, the platforms are proudly collaborating with one another, and following government guidance, to censor harmful information related to the coronavirus.”[10] However, what the government and Big Tech deems harmful is often questionable.

 

Facebook has removed events in places like Nebraska, New Jersey, California, and Michigan that were promoting citizen protests against state-mandated stay-at-home orders.[11] Furthermore, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone has warned, “Events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook.”[12] This, despite protestors receiving support from the president[13][14] and the Attorney General who has reminded the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys, “We do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public, but the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.”[15]

 

On the matter of using hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for COVID-19, Big Tech companies opted to honor the concerns of one politicized viewpoint and ignore the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency-use authorization for treating the novel coronavirus with hydroxychloroquine.[16] A survey of 6,227 doctors in 30 countries by Sermo, a global health care polling company, found that 37% of physicians treating COVID-19 patients rated hydroxychloroquine as the “most effective therapy,”[17] and a questionable,[18] non-peer reviewed, French study found the drug to be 91% effective in treating 1,061 patients.[19] Because of consistently positive reports from around the world, the drug is undergoing several large-scale clinical trials,[20][21][22] and it has been repeatedly touted as a promising treatment option in the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings.[23] Nevertheless, YouTube censored posts by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for saying, “There is no coronavirus vaccination or highly effective medicine, but I still think hydroxychloroquine is quite effective. It will make the virus disappear quickly.”[24]

 

Similarly, a video viewed 5.4 million times of doctors Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi discussing COVID-19 statistics and questioning whether the data merits shelter-in-place orders was removed by YouTube because it violated community guidelines. Fox News host Tucker Carlson comments, “The only justification for taking it down was that the two physicians on screen had reached different conclusions from the people currently in charge.”[25][26] Specifically, the video failed to conform to the government’s recommended guidance on social distancing.[27]

 

Big Tech companies have become unquestioning mouthpieces for government. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has classified political dissent from government stay-at-home orders as “harmful misinformation,”[28] while YouTube has expressly stated that it will remove any content that disagrees with the World Health Organization (WHO) and social distancing guidelines issued by the government. A YouTube spokesperson told the BBC, “Any content that disputes the existence or transmission of Covid-19, as described by the WHO and local health authorities is in violation of YouTube policies.”[29] Likewise, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki brazenly admitted to CNN’s Brian Stelter, “We also talk about removing information that is problematic, you know. Of course, anything that is medically unsubstantiated. So people saying, like, take vitamin C, you know, take turmeric, like, those are — will cure you. Those are the examples of things that would be a violation of our policy. Anything that would go against World Health Organization recommendations would be a violation of our policy. And so remove is another really important part of our policy.”[30]

 

This is particularly troubling since the World Health Organization has come under fire for misrepresenting the threat of COVID-19 and championing blatant Chinese propaganda.[31] Tucker Carlson reminds us, “Like everyone else involved in global pandemic policy, the WHO has often been wrong in its recommendations. A lot of people have. In mid-January WHO told us the coronavirus could not spread from person-to-person. In March they told us that facemasks didn’t work. Those were lies, and they were welcome on Google’s platforms. Doctors who are actually treating patients with the virus, meanwhile, have just been banned.”[32]

 

Increasingly, Big Tech and government are collaborating to set acceptable boundaries for communicating in America. In doing so they are restricting truth to only those things that match their worldview. Last year the justification was protecting people from fake news and hate speech. This year the justification is protecting people from bad science. Whatever the excuse, the simple reality is that we are permitting ourselves to be censored. As such, we are rapidly losing our ability to openly communicate with one another in order to discern truth from error.

 

Already, truth is stumbling in America’s public squares. Not surprisingly, we have been experiencing an increase in oppression and injustice. It seems our nation is following a similar trajectory as that described in Isaiah 59. If we are not careful and refuse to correct our course, we may also experience the judgment of God described in Isaiah. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that God’s people speak the truth in every conversation while at least some truth remains uncensored.

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Timothy Zebell

Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. Timberg, Craig, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Hamza Shaban. “Apple, Facebook and Other Tech Companies Delete Content from Alex Jones.” Technology. Washington Post, August 6, 2018, 6:30 p.m., EDT. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/08/06/apple-facebook-other-tech-companies-delete-content-alex-jones/.

2. TeamYouTube at (@TeamYouTube). “Update on our continued review–we have suspended this channel’s monetization. We came to this decision because a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community and is against our YouTube Partner Program policies. More here:” Twitter, June 5, 2019, 11:39 a.m. https://twitter.com/TeamYouTube/status/1136341801109843968.

3. Rosenberg, Eli. “A Right-Wing YouTuber Hurled Racist, Homophobic Taunts at a Gay Reporter. The Company Did Nothing.” Technology. Washington Post, June 5, 2019, 3:57 p.m., EDT. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/06/05/right-wing-youtuber-hurled-racist-homophobic-taunts-gay-reporter-company-did-nothing/.

4. TeamYouTube at (@TeamYouTube).

5. Hoft, Jim. “Facebook Eliminates 93% of Traffic to Top Conservative Sites – Stocks Plunge 24%.” Gateway Pundit, July 25, 2018, 6:44 p.m. https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2018/07/facebook-eliminates-93-of-traffic-to-top-conservative-sites-stocks-slide-24/.

6. Osburn, Madeline. “Twitter Is Now Banning Conservatives for Investigative Journalism about Big Tech’s Abortion Activism.” Federalist, June 13, 2019. https://thefederalist.com/2019/06/13/twitter-now-banning-conservatives-investigative-journalism-big-techs-abortion-activism/.

7. Osburn.

8. YouTube Team. “Our Ongoing Work to Tackle Hate.” YouTube Official Blog, June 5, 2019. https://youtube.googleblog.com/2019/06/our-ongoing-work-to-tackle-hate.html.

9. Staff. “Undercover Video: Twitter Engineers to ‘Ban a Way of Talking’ through ‘Shadow Banning,’ Algorithms to Censor Opposing Political Opinions.” Project Veritas, January 11, 2018. https://www.projectveritas.com/2018/01/11/undercover-video-twitter-engineers-to-ban-a-way-of-talking-through-shadow-banning-algorithms-to-censor-opposing-political-opinions/.

10. Goldsmith, Jack and Andrew Woods. “Internet Speech Will Never Go back to Normal.” Atlantic, April 25, 2020. Last updated April 27, 2020, 3:15 a.m., ET. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/04/what-covid-revealed-about-internet/610549/.

11. Culliford, Elizabeth. “Facebook Removes Anti-Quarantine Protest Events in Some U.S. States.” Reuters, April 20, 2020, 3:16 p.m. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-facebook/facebook-removes-anti-quarantine-protest-events-in-some-us-states-idUSKBN2222QK.

12. Culliford.

13. Chalfant, Morgan and Brett Samuels. “Trump Defends Demonstrators Protesting Social Distancing Restrictions.” News. Hill, April 17, 2020, 8:37 p.m., EDT. https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/493445-trump-defends-demonstrators-protesting-social-distancing-restrictions.

14. Itkowitz, Colby. “‘Liberate’: Trump Tweets Support of Protests against Stay-at-Home Orders.” Politics. Washington Post, April 17, 2020, 6:10 p.m., EDT. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/17/liberate-trump-tweets-support-protesting-against-stay-at-home-orders/.

15. Kruzel, John. “Barr Signals DOJ Support for Lockdown Protesters.” News. Hill, May 1, 2020, 6:00 a.m., EDT. https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/495591-barr-signals-doj-support-for-lockdown-protesters.

16. Richardson, Valerie. “Hydroxychloroquine Rated ‘Most Effective Therapy’ by Doctors for Coronavirus: Global Survey.” News. Washington Times, April 2, 2020. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/apr/2/hydroxychloroquine-rated-most-effective-therapy-do/.

17. “Largest Statistically Significant Study by 6,200 Multi-Country Physicians on COVID-19 Uncovers Treatment Patterns and Puts Pandemic in Context.” Sermo, April 2, 2020. Richardson, Valerie. “Hydroxychloroquine Rated ‘Most Effective Therapy’ by Doctors for Coronavirus: Global Survey.”

18. Raoult, Didier. “Hydroxychloroquine-COVID-19 Study Did Not Meet Publishing Society’s ‘Expected Standard.’” Retraction Watch, April 6, 2020. Last updated April 12, 2020, 7:00 p.m., UTC. https://retractionwatch.com/2020/04/06/hydroxychlorine-covid-19-study-did-not-meet-publishing-societys-expected-standard/

19. Million, Matthieu, et al. “Early treatment of 1061 COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, Marseille, France.” Mediterranee Infection, n.d. Accessed May 5, 2020. https://www.mediterranee-infection.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/MS.pdf.

20. “First Large-Scale U.S. Study on Hydroxychloroquine COVID-19 Prophylaxis Begins in Detroit.” Diagnostic and Interventional Cardiology, April 10, 2020. https://www.dicardiology.com/article/first-large-scale-us-study-hydroxychloroquine-covid-19-prophylaxis-begins-detroit.

21. Staines, Richard. “Novartis Plans Large-Scale Trial of COVID-19 Drug Hydroxychloroquine.” PharmaPhorum, April 20, 2020. https://pharmaphorum.com/news/novartis-plans/.

22. Smith, Lydia. “Spain Launches Large-Scale Study of Hydroxychloroquine and Antiretrovirals to Prevent COVID-19 in Health Workers.” Newsweek, April 10, 2020, 12:01 p.m., EDT. https://www.newsweek.com/spain-study-hydroxychloroquine-antiretrovirals-covid-19-health-workers-1497277.

23. Associated Press. “Trump Pushes Unproven Drug for Virus; Doctors Wary.” Local 10, April 6, 2020, 5:33 p.m. Last updated April 6, 2020, 7:53 p.m. https://www.local10.com/news/local/2020/04/06/watch-live-trumps-daily-briefing-on-coronavirus-pandemic-response/.

24. Berrien, Hank. “WATCH: YouTube CEO: We’ll Remove Any Content That Goes against WHO Recommendations.” Daily Wire, August 21, 2020. https://www.dailywire.com/news/watch-youtube-ceo-well-remove-any-content-that-goes-against-who-recommendations.

25. Flood, Brian. “Free Speech Advocates Call YouTube’s Removal of Coronavirus-Related Video ‘Egregious Censorship Effort.’” Media. Fox News, April 29, 2020. https://www.foxnews.com/media/youtube-video-removed-coronavirus-free-speech.

26. Carlson, Tucker. Tucker Carlson Tonight. Fox News, April 28, 2020.

27. Flood, “Free Speech Advocates Call YouTube’s Removal of Coronavirus-Related Video ‘Egregious Censorship Effort.’”

28. Lardieri, Alexa. “Zuckerberg: Stay-at-Home Protests Organized on Facebook Qualify as ‘Harmful Misinformation.’” U.S. News and World Report, April 20, 2020, 11:27 a.m. https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2020-04-20/facebooks-mark-zuckerberg-says-stay-at-home-protests-organized-on-site-qualify-as-harmful-misinformation.

29. Berrien, “WATCH: YouTube CEO: We’ll Remove Any Content That Goes against WHO Recommendations.”

30. Berrien.

31. Smith, Marion. “Timeline Proves WHO Helped China Make COVID-19 Pandemic Worse.” Federalist, April 15, 2020. https://thefederalist.com/2020/04/15/timeline-proves-who-helped-china-make-covid-19-pandemic-worse/.

31. Carlson, Tucker Carlson Tonight.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.