One of the biggest perpetrators of censorship during the COVID-19 pandemic is now saying he regrets the actions he and his companies took.
Last Thursday, while appearing on the Lex Fridman Podcast, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed the role that his two social media companies played in censoring information while the pandemic was going on.
He said that it’s very difficult to censor misinformation, and in order to do so, it requires at least a little bit of subjectivity. Zuckerberg added that specifically in regard to COVID, it was even tougher to administer censorship, since many of the scientific assumptions that were being made then hadn’t even been scrutinized properly yet.
Zuckerberg added that the “establishment” had asked for the censorship to be done based on claims that ultimately ended up being correct or arguable. As he explained:
“So, misinformation … has been a really tricky one because there are things that are kind of obviously false, right, that are maybe factual, but may not be harmful. So, it’s like, alright, are you going to censor someone for just being wrong if there’s no kind of harm implication of what they’re doing? I think … there’s a bunch of real issues and challenges there.”
That speaks to misinformation in general and the challenges of dealing with it on as large of a social media platform as Facebook, where people are posting millions of messages around the clock from around the world.
Specifically in regard to COVID, Zuckerberg added:
“Just take some of the stuff around COVID earlier on in the pandemic, where there were real health implications, but there hadn’t been time to fully vet a bunch of the scientific assumptions, and, unfortunately, I think a lot of the establishment on that kind of waffled on a bunch of facts and asked for a bunch of things to be censored that, in retrospect, ended up being more debatable or true.
“And that stuff is really tough, right? It really undermines trust.”
In August of 2021, the Facebook CEO said Facebook removed about 18 million posts on the platform that contained what they were labeling as “misinformation.” A CBS News report back then said that Facebook didn’t specify how often the posts in question were either shared on other places or viewed in total.
That same report stated that more than 2 billion people around the world had viewed what they called “authoritative information” regarding COVID on Facebook.
Before May of 2021, Facebook censored all posts that talked about the pandemic being man-made, which came to be known as the “lab leak theory.”
Media outlet Reason obtained emails that reportedly show that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was in regular contact with Facebook, with staffers at Facebook taking direction from the CDC about how to moderate content about COVID-19, and what direction their fact-checking regulations should take.
The ironic thing, of course, is that in February of this year, the U.S. Department of Energy shared a report with some members of Congress and the White House that concluded the pandemic had likely started because of a leak that happened at a laboratory in China.