Collusion Writ Large

 

If you had any doubt that big tech has been colluding with the federal government, the feds have confirmed their attack on the first amendment without any apologies.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has jumped into the fray of overplaying government power by publicly calling for all media outlets to edit out or refuse to publish what he calls “misinformation”; this term is a substitute for “information we don’t like or don’t agree with.” His behavior is an attack on the Constitution, an insult to our citizenry, and a demonstration that the federal government will use any tactics, legal or illegal, to achieve its agenda. He issued a 22-page document trying to justify his actions. It said, in part:

Misinformation tends to spread quickly on these platforms for several reasons. First, misinformation is often framed in a sensational and emotional manner that can connect viscerally, distort memory, align with cognitive biases, and heighten psychological responses such as anxiety. People can feel a sense of urgency to react to and share emotionally charged misinformation with others, enabling it to spread quickly and go “viral.” In recent years, the rapidly changing information environment has made it easier for misinformation to spread at unprecedented speed and scale.

Second, product features built into technology platforms have contributed to the spread of misinformation. For example, social media platforms incentivize people to share content to get likes, comments, and other positive signals of engagement. These features help connect and inform people but reward engagement rather than accuracy, allowing emotionally charged misinformation to spread more easily than emotionally neutral content. One study found that false news stories were 70 percent more likely to be shared on social media than true stories.

Third, algorithms that determine what users see online often prioritize content based on its popularity or similarity to previously seen content. As a result, a user exposed to misinformation once could see more and more of it over time, further reinforcing one’s misunderstanding. Some websites also combine different kinds of information, such as news, ads, and posts from users, into a single feed, which can leave consumers confused about the underlying source of any given piece of content.

The irony is that the experts have themselves distributed misinformation, changed their directives and recommendations, and ignored the science. And yet we are supposed to comply with their demands.

The announcement of the Surgeon General is no surprise; big tech and the media have been censoring information for a couple of years, under the guise that they are protecting the public. This is the first time, however, that the government is publicly calling for these organizations to join forces to deprive us of our rights.

In an appearance on Fox News, Ben Domenech called out the government on its behavior. I share his frustration and outrage.

Whether our protests make any difference—your guess is as good as mine.

Published in Law
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  1. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Susan, you are a Contributor, and have the right to place this directly in the Main Feed.  Thank you for placing this post in the Member Feed where it can sink or swim like any other post.  Ricochet is a far better place with you in it.  While I disagree with some of your conclusions, I will extend a “like” because the quality of this post has earned it.

    • #1
  2. W Bob Member
    W Bob
    @WBob

    As if there is an objective way to define misinformation… 

    Right now it’s the tech companies. There’s a debate on whether their censorship is legal (and Murthy’s statement helps Trumps lawsuit in that regard).

    But this is just a dress rehearsal for the real thing when the government itself will do the censoring. 

    I remember when liberals, back when they defended free speech, would say “You have the right to be wrong.” 

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    W Bob (View Comment):
    But this is just a dress rehearsal for the real thing when the government itself will do the censoring. 

    I agree with all your points, @WBob. This is only the beginning. I expect to see more action in the near future.

    • #3
  4. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    The problem is the people in power (both government and private sector) are defining criticism of their viewpoints as misinformation, when they should be countering with information of their own and let people make up their own minds.  When the free exchange of ideas is snuffed out by one side, you have tyranny.  And Mr. Murthy is only one of the many petty tyrants we now have in office.

    Aside: I’ve never been a big fan of the Surgeon General wearing the Navy uniform.

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):
    The problem is the people in power (both government and private sector) are defining criticism of their viewpoints as misinformation, when they should be countering with information of their own and let people make up their own minds. 

    The problem is that their information is confusing and flat-out wrong a lot of the time! You mean you want them to rely on the truth? Whose truth would that be? Sorry, Stad, lost it for a moment. . . 

    • #5
  6. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    They’re not even trying to hide it anymore:

     

    • #6
  7. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    W Bob (View Comment):

    As if there is an objective way to define misinformation… 

    Evidently, anything negative about the Biden family is misinformation . . . at least during the election cycle.

    For the White House to admit they actively work to ban free-speech is crazy. They can say, “It’s because of public safety,” but how many other issues can they claim are too important to allow diverging opinions to be expressed in public?

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    They’re not even trying to hide it anymore:

     

    It’s chilling isn’t it? They are so pleased with their overwhelming response by flagging. I wonder who makes those decisions? Is there any recourse? Those questions are rhetorical, of course. Thanks, MWD!

    • #8
  9. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Vance Richards (View Comment):
    For the White House to admit they actively work to ban free-speech is crazy. They can say, “It’s because of public safety,” but how many other issues can they claim are too important to allow diverging opinions to be expressed in public?

    It is worth repeating the wisdom of Professor Reynolds:

    THEY’RE DOING THIS WITH POLITICAL POSTS, TOO, THEY’RE JUST NOT ADMITTING IT YET

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    philo (View Comment):

    Vance Richards (View Comment):
    For the White House to admit they actively work to ban free-speech is crazy. They can say, “It’s because of public safety,” but how many other issues can they claim are too important to allow diverging opinions to be expressed in public?

    It is worth repeating the wisdom of Professor Reynolds:

    THEY’RE DOING THIS WITH POLITICAL POSTS, TOO, THEY’RE JUST NOT ADMITTING IT YET

    More wordplay, @philo. They do think we’re pretty stupid, don’t they?

    • #10
  11. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):
    The problem is the people in power (both government and private sector) are defining criticism of their viewpoints as misinformation, when they should be countering with information of their own and let people make up their own minds.

    The problem is that their information is confusing and flat-out wrong a lot of the time! You mean you want them to rely on the truth? Whose truth would that be? Sorry, Stad, lost it for a moment. . .

    Some of what they say is true, like when they say they want to pack the Supreme Court or end the filibuster.  I used to work with our OEA (Office of External Affairs) when I worked at DOE, and we did try to put out good, factual, and understandable technical information to the public about current and proposed operations.

    Short answer:  It can happen . . .

    • #11
  12. D.A. Venters Member
    D.A. Venters
    @DAVenters

    I get the impression that public officials, administrators like the Surgeon General and his subordinates, spend a lot of time trying to correct misinformation.  I did a stint on a local school board in recent years, and the circulation of rumors and misinformation was definitely a headache.  It spreads so quickly and can be really difficult to counter in a short amount of time, especially for bodies like school boards, which only meet periodically, and can’t officially respond until they can get a meeting together and vote on a response.  It really ruined some good things the board was trying to do, like a building levy at the last minute, and it was a real shame.  It will, in fact, probably cost the district millions of dollars when they have to, eventually, fund the new building, but this time at much higher cost.  I think it’s fair to recognize this is a problem.  It’s always been there to some extent of course, but I do think it’s getting worse for the reasons Murthy describes.

    So, I sympathize with Murthy, and mostly agree with the points he makes.  Still, I have real reservations about influencing the debate in this way.  I’m all for the Surgeon Gen’l getting out there into the argument and spreading the message he needs to spread.  I don’t like attempting to shut other speech down.  To be clear, I don’t think it necessarily violates the 1st Amendment, depending on the details, and I think his intentions are good, but you really run the risk of making misinformation more visible, more powerful, when you try to shut it down like this.  I don’t know what a good solution would be, candidly, or whether one is possible. 

    People need to be more skeptical of the things they hear, especially if it seems to confirm their own pre-conceived notions and biases. 

    • #12
  13. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    I recommend you main feed this, Susan. It’s too important to keep on the member feed.

     

    • #13
  14. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Is there any recourse?

    Don’t use their platforms.  I know it would be nearly impossible for some people, but I have zero trouble keeping up with family and friends using the phone, e-mail, and texting.  However, I recognize those technologies are vulnerable too . . .

    • #14
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    They do think we’re pretty stupid, don’t they?

    More like they know there’s nothing we can do about it.

    • #15
  16. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    They do think we’re pretty stupid, don’t they?

    More like they know there’s nothing we can do about it.

    Not as long as the GOP continues acting as kept pets.

    • #16
  17. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    They do think we’re pretty stupid, don’t they?

    More like they know there’s nothing we can do about it.

    Not as long as the GOP continues acting as kept pets.

    Or neutered representatives.  Heck, Republican women have more gumption than most of the blowhards we have in office . . .

    • #17
  18. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    All that I am going to say is, never trust a medical facility or professional who uses the Caduceus.

    Hermes was not only the god of thieves, but also the psychopomp, the god who led the dead to the afterlife.

    Now, do you really want to trust this guy who uses this flag?

    Flag of the United States Surgeon General v1.svg

    • #18
  19. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    Susan, you are a Contributor, and have the right to place this directly in the Main Feed. Thank you for placing this post in the Member Feed where it can sink or swim like any other post. Ricochet is a far better place with you in it. While I disagree with some of your conclusions, I will extend a “like” because the quality of this post has earned it.

    You voted for this sort of thing Gary. You should be cheering government pressure to censorship. 

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    So, I sympathize with Murthy, and mostly agree with the points he makes.  Still, I have real reservations about influencing the debate in this way.  I’m all for the Surgeon Gen’l getting out there into the argument and spreading the message he needs to spread. 

    That’s precisely the point. If he wants “correct” information out there, he has the same access to sites, with the added advantage of being an “expert.” You don’t censor the speech of others. Period.

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):

    I recommend you main feed this, Susan. It’s too important to keep on the member feed.

     

    I’ve chosen to start on the Member Feed for almost all of my posts, and if and when I get 12 likes, the editors will likely promote it. But you guys, not I, have the say on promotion.

    • #21
  22. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Stad (View Comment):
    Aside: I’ve never been a big fan of the Surgeon General wearing the Navy uniform.

    It’s not a Navy uniform, it just looks like it (I can’t recall the official name of the organization that uses the uniform). Or so I was told by a doctor when I was a patient at the National Institutes for Health back in 1994.

    (I just Googled it; it’s the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.)

    • #22
  23. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    But wait, there’s more!

     

    • #23
  24. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    But wait, there’s more!

     

    This should be ice down the spines of every real American. Unfortunately, too many will just nod along.

    Hey doofuses. When Alex Jones was banned from social media, a lot of us warned you where this was heading. And too many of you said “Oh, well, that’s okay, because he’s a kook.” (Far too many on Ricochet, for example.)

    Have you figured it out yet?

    • #24
  25. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Rarely in US history has free speech been under such strong attack as it is at present.  It is terrifying to see someone wearing a pseudo-military uniform of the US government, speaking officially, demanding the suppression of speech.

    And there is a lot of this sort of thing going on.  The American Booksellers Association is a sponsor of Banned Books Week, “the annual celebration of the right to read.”  It just issued  groveling apology for having included Abigail Shrier’s book  “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters”, the apology including these words:

    An anti-trans book was included in our July mailing to members. This is a serious, violent incident that goes against ABA’s ends policies [sic], values, and everything we believe and support. It is inexcusable.

    I haven’t read the book, but from summaries I’ve seen, it is by no means “anti-trans”…it is about the social pressure that exist around middle-school age, which I thought everybody knew about, and how these encourage hasty sex-change decisions by kids who are way too young to make such a decision rationally.  Even more serious is the inclusion of the word “violent.”  Words still have specific meanings, and I can’t think right off of any reason why this wouldn’t be actionable defamation.  This isn’t a one-off thing; increasingly, anything the ‘woke’ mob doesn’t like is labeled as “violence.”

    See also my post Do the Lord Chancellor and the Archbishop Approve?, especially the thoughts on Americans as passive consumers in need of protection and the related linked thoughts from Brad Patty about citizenship.

     

     

    • #25
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    David Foster (View Comment):
    I haven’t read the book, but from summaries I’ve seen, it is by no means “anti-trans”…it is about the social pressure that exist around middle-school age, which I thought everybody knew about, and how these encourage hasty sex-change decisions by kids who are way too young to make such a decision rationally. 

    have read the book and your description is correct. It was so depressing to read, to see the way kids are practically forced into the lifestyle and pressured to stay with it. It’s a horrible process, destroys lives and families, and all those who are participating are evil, plain and simple.

    • #26
  27. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    I will believe they are doing this for our good when this banning of ‘bad’ information includes Dr. Fauchi.

     

    • #27
  28. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    And we inch ever closer to a “Ministry of Truth”.

    “There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”

    There are enough of us that still care about the truth, but, as we die out, who will be willing or able to discern the truth?

    • #28
  29. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    There are enough of us that still care about the truth, but, as we die out, who will be willing or able to discern the truth?

    Schools are making sure the younger generations are fully indoctrinated to believe that free speech is bad.

    • #29
  30. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    W Bob (View Comment):

    As if there is an objective way to define misinformation…

    Right now it’s the tech companies. There’s a debate on whether their censorship is legal (and Murthy’s statement helps Trumps lawsuit in that regard).

    But this is just a dress rehearsal for the real thing when the government itself will do the censoring.

    I remember when liberals, back when they defended free speech, would say “You have the right to be wrong.”

    Well, there is an objective way of defining “misinformation.”  Information that is false.  We define false information in the law, all of the time, as in fraud cases.

    I think that the problem occurs in determining who is entitled to prevent the spread of false information.  Freedom of speech is a generally the better rule, subject to the traditional exceptions such as incitement to lawless behavior or presenting a clear and present danger, like the classic example of falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.

    I do think that the actions of the Surgeon General cited in the OP are a problem, as are the actions of many Big Tech companies.  I understand that Bret Weinstein had a video removed recently from YouTube, discussing Ivermectin (I think), which was a bad thing.  Though I think that Weinstein’s concerns about the vaccines — and about Covid itself — are a bit overblown, and I’m not yet convinced of the efficacy of Ivermectin.

    • #30