World’s Most Prestigious Medical Journal Roasts Facebook Over ‘Inaccurate, Incompetent & Irresponsible’ Fact Check

The Machiavellian quote (sic) that “if you’re going to come at the king, you best not miss,” may be about to bite Mark Zuckerberg and his army of fact-checking mercenaries.

While Zuckerberg may feel omnipotent atop his opaque algo-world but the so-called ‘fact-checkers’ – so expert at shutting down any narrative-conflicting-information (on behalf of, and often at the behest of, the Biden administration) – may have met their match by claiming that one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious medical journals delivered “false information” that “could mislead people.”

britihs medical journal mark zuckerberg

Bombshell That Went Virtually Unreported in the Corporate Media: Facebook Court Filing ADMITS ‘Fact Checks’ Are Just A Matter Of Opinion.

As we detailed in early NovemberThe British Medical Journal (BMJ) – a weekly peer-reviewed medical trade journal, published by the trade union the British Medical Association – published a whistle-blower report calling into question data integrity and regulatory oversight issues surrounding Pfizer’s pivotal phase III Covid-19 vaccine trial.

Brook Jackson, a now-fired regional director at Ventavia Research Group, revealed to The BMJ that vaccine trials at several sites in Texas last year had major problems – including falsified data, broke fundamental rules, and were ‘slow’ to report adverse reactions.

When she notified superiors of the issues she found, they fired her.

“A regional director who was employed at the research organisation Ventavia Research Group has told The BMJ that the company falsified data, unblinded patients, employed inadequately trained vaccinators, and was slow to follow up on adverse events reported in Pfizer’s pivotal phase III trial. Staff who conducted quality control checks were overwhelmed by the volume of problems they were finding. After repeatedly notifying Ventavia of these problems, the regional director, Brook Jackson, emailed a complaint to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ventavia fired her later the same day. Jackson has provided The BMJ with dozens of internal company documents, photos, audio recordings, and emails.” – The BMJ

Very soon after, as the worrisome story went viral, BMJ soon would get a taste of what Facebook, Google, and others are doing to independent media platforms. As TrialSiteNews.com reportseven though BMJ is one of the most prominent medical journals and the information was rigorously peer-reviewed, strange things started occurring.

For example, readers would try to post some of the information on social media such as Facebook to share with their networks. But “some reported being unable to share it [the information].” Moreover, those individuals that were simply sharing this content, peer-reviewed from The BMJ, were warned by Facebook that, “Independent fact-checkers concluded, “This information could mislead people.”

biden's bodyguards facebook and twitter

Moreover, they were told, “Those trying to post the article were informed by Facebook that people who repeatedly share ‘false information’ might have their posts moved lower in Facebook’s News Feed.”

In addition, some group administrators received notices from Facebook that the information was “partly false.”

Readers were sent to a “fact check” performed by Lead Stories, a third-party fact-checker.

And so, as possibly the top experts in the world when it comes to medical research information, BMJ has now been forced to fact-check the ‘fact-checkers’.

In a no-holds-barred ‘open letter to Mark Zuckerberg’, the editors exposed that ‘fact-check’ as “inaccurate, incompetent, and irresponsible.”

Having received no response from Facebook or from Lead Stories, after requesting the removal of the “fact checking” label, the BMJ’s editors raise a “wider concern”:

We are aware that The BMJ is not the only high quality information provider to have been affected by the incompetence of Meta’s fact checking regime…

Rather than investing a proportion of Meta’s substantial profits to help ensure the accuracy of medical information shared through social media, you have apparently delegated responsibility to people incompetent in carrying out this crucial task.

Fact checking has been a staple of good journalism for decades.

What has happened in this instance should be of concern to anyone who values and relies on sources such as The BMJ.

Additionally, ‘goopthink’ offered more anti-censorship fire and brimstone in an eloquent comment at ycombinator:

In addition to the points raised by BMJ and in the comments below, there is a limit to what independent fact checking can accomplish.

For example, are their fact checkers conducting their own scientific experiments validating claims and outcomes of a scientific paper? Are fact checkers reaching out to sources from a news article and verifying quoted information? When “breaking news” or “scoops” are reported presenting totally new information about the world, how can that be verified against other information that – by virtue of something being new – cannot be verified by other preexisting sources?

If the fact checking process is limited to verification based on other information that is currently available, and if the fact checking process cannot distinguish between factual information and the opinions people hold as a result of that information, the outcome will be an inevitable echo chamber that reinforces currently dominant views or whatever preexisting biases are present.

… and that is exactly what the establishment wants.

Bombshell That Went Virtually Unreported in the Corporate Media: Facebook Court Filing ADMITS ‘Fact Checks’ Are Just A Matter Of Opinion.

Full letter from The BMJ below (emphasis ours):

Open Letter From The BMJ To Mark Zuckerberg

Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

We are Fiona Godlee and Kamran Abbasi, editors of The BMJ, one of the world’s oldest and most influential general medical journals. We are writing to raise serious concerns about the “fact checking” being undertaken by third party providers on behalf of Facebook/Meta.

In September, a former employee of Ventavia, a contract research company helping carry out the main Pfizer covid-19 vaccine trial, began providing The BMJ with dozens of internal company documents, photos, audio recordings, and emails. These materials revealed a host of poor clinical trial research practices occurring at Ventavia that could impact data integrity and patient safety. We also discovered that, despite receiving a direct complaint about these problems over a year ago, the FDA did not inspect Ventavia’s trial sites.

The BMJ commissioned an investigative reporter to write up the story for our journal. The article was published on 2 November, following legal review, external peer review and subject to The BMJ’s usual high level editorial oversight and review.

But from November 10, readers began reporting a variety of problems when trying to share our article. Some reported being unable to share it. Many others reported having their posts flagged with a warning about “Missing context … Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people.” Those trying to post the article were informed by Facebook that people who repeatedly share “false information” might have their posts moved lower in Facebook’s News Feed. Group administrators where the article was shared received messages from Facebook informing them that such posts were “partly false.”

Readers were directed to a “fact check” performed by a Facebook contractor named Lead Stories.

We find the “fact check” performed by Lead Stories to be inaccurate, incompetent and irresponsible.

  • It fails to provide any assertions of fact that The BMJ article got wrong
  • It has a nonsensical title: “Fact Check: The British Medical Journal Did NOT Reveal Disqualifying And Ignored Reports Of Flaws In Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Trials”
  • The first paragraph inaccurately labels The BMJ a “news blog”
  • It contains a screenshot of our article with a stamp over it stating “Flaws Reviewed,” despite the Lead Stories article not identifying anything false or untrue in The BMJ article
  • It published the story on its website under a URL that contains the phrase “hoax-alert”

We have contacted Lead Stories, but they refuse to change anything about their article or actions that have led to Facebook flagging our article.

We have also contacted Facebook directly, requesting immediate removal of the “fact checking” label and any link to the Lead Stories article, thereby allowing our readers to freely share the article on your platform.

There is also a wider concern that we wish to raise. We are aware that The BMJ is not the only high quality information provider to have been affected by the incompetence of Meta’s fact checking regime. To give one other example, we would highlight the treatment by Instagram (also owned by Meta) of Cochrane, the international provider of high quality systematic reviews of the medical evidence. Rather than investing a proportion of Meta’s substantial profits to help ensure the accuracy of medical information shared through social media, you have apparently delegated responsibility to people incompetent in carrying out this crucial task. Fact checking has been a staple of good journalism for decades. What has happened in this instance should be of concern to anyone who values and relies on sources such as The BMJ.

We hope you will act swiftly: specifically to correct the error relating to The BMJ’s article and to review the processes that led to the error; and generally to reconsider your investment in and approach to fact checking overall.

Best wishes,

Fiona Godlee, editor in chief

Kamran Abbasi, incoming editor in chief

The BMJ

Competing interests:

As current and incoming editors in chief, we are responsible for everything The BMJ contains.

It appears the ‘fact-checkers’ have some facts of their own to check… or otherwise admit they are simply there – as Fauci and Collins collusion was exposed this week – to maintain the propaganda peace for whoever is pulling the strings.

AMA Plots To Ban Ivermectin So That More People Die From COVID

The American Medical Association (AMA) wants people to die from the Wuhan coronavirus (Covid-19).

The reason we can safely say this is that the trade group is working overtime to restrict Americans’ access to hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and ivermectin, two safe, effective and inexpensive early treatment remedies for the Chinese Virus.ama plots to ban ivermectin so that more people die from covid

HJBC/Shutterstock

Instead of recognizing that each individual has the God-given right to choose what goes into his body, the AMA is taking a position of medical fascism that does not even recognize the right of doctors to prescribe whatever medications they see fit for their patients.

In 1996, ivermectin was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in humans. Today, ivermectin is off-patent and available generically for treating a variety of pathologies.

Because using ivermectin breaks the plandemic script, however – everyone is supposed to just mask up and get “vaccinated,” they tell us – the AMA is trying to make it impossible to get (except for the black market, perhaps).

“The American Medical Association (which represents only 12% of practicing physicians and receives more money from the federal government than from its waning membership dues) and two national pharmacy associations (which receive corporate support from COVID-19 ‘vaccine’ manufacturers, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson) have decided ivermectin should not be used to treat this virus despite widespread successful treatment with this drug (discovered in the late 1970s and used in humans since 1988),” write Robert Marshall and Dr. Bernard, Pegis, M.D., for LifeSiteNews.

“Ivermectin is currently available over the counter in many countries. If American drugstores implement this dangerous policy, many lives will be lost.”

Explosive! India State of 241 MILLION People Declared COVID-Free After Government Promotes Ivermectin.

Hypocritical AMA Supported Off-Label Prescription Of Drugs As Recently As 2020

In a September 1 press release, the AMA, along with the American Pharmacists Association (APHA) and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), explained that they “strongly oppose the ordering, prescribing, or dispensing of ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19 outside of a clinical trial.”

“We are alarmed by reports that outpatient prescribing for and dispensing of ivermectin have increased 24-fold since before the pandemic and increased exponentially over the past few months,” that announcement further read.

Even though there are almost no risks associated with taking ivermectin as normally prescribed, the AMA, the APHA and the ASHP are freaking out about the fact that some doctors are administering it to their sick patients.

Off-label prescription of pharmaceuticals has been common practice for many decades. Now that covid is here and being highly politicized by the left, however, it is suddenly a mortal sin in the eyes of the medical establishment to even just try using ivermectin for treating Chinese Germs.

Just prior to when the Fauci Flu made its appearance, the AMA actually issued an official policy guideline confirming that it offers “strong support” for the off-label prescription of pharmaceuticals whenever a doctor deems that it may be helpful.

“Our AMA confirms its strong support for the autonomous clinical decision-making authority of a physician and that a physician may lawfully use an FDA approved drug product or medical device for an off-label indication when such use is based upon sound scientific evidence or sound medical opinion,” the organization confirmed at the time.

India: COVID Cases Plummet After Government Promotes Use of Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine.

Now that the Biden regime wants everyone to get “vaccinated,” though, the AMA is doing everything possible to restrict access to ivermectin, which quite frankly would have put an end to this fake “pandemic” a long, long time ago.

“Jesus was severely criticized for healing a blind man on the Sabbath (John 9:13-30),” LifeSiteNews reported.

“Today, practicing physicians who save lives using drug therapy are ostracized. Mainstream medicine appears to be rejecting efforts to combat COVID-19 with drugs in favor of experimental mRNA ‘vaccines.’”

Silicon Valley Algorithm Manipulation Is The Only Thing Keeping Mainstream Media Alive

The algorithm manipulation performed by Silicon Valley or Big Tech is what is keeping the outdated, dinosaur MSM alive. Algorithm manipulation is how Big Tech operates.

The emergence of the internet was met with hope and enthusiasm by people who understood that the plutocrat-controlled mainstream media were manipulating public opinion to manufacture consent for the status quo.

silicon valley algorithm manipulation is the only thing keeping mainstream media alive

The democratization of information-sharing was going to give rise to a public consciousness that is emancipated from the domination of plutocratic narrative control, thereby opening up the possibility of revolutionary change to our society’s corrupt systems.

But it never happened. Internet use has become commonplace around the world and humanity is able to network and share information like never before, yet we remain firmly under the thumb of the same power structures we’ve been ruled by for generations, both politically and psychologically. Even the dominant media institutions are somehow still the same.

So what went wrong? Nobody’s buying newspapers anymore, and the audiences for television and radio are dwindling.

The Collapse Of Major Media: MSM’s Audience Is Literally Dying
Mainstream Media Is Dying — Declares War On Their Competition As “Fake News”

How is it possible that those same imperialist oligarchic institutions are still controlling the way most people think about their world?

The answer is algorithm manipulation.

Last month a very informative interview saw the CEO of YouTube, which is owned by Google, candidly discussing the way the platform uses algorithms to elevate mainstream news outlets and suppress independent content.

At the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Technology Governance Summit, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told Atlantic CEO Nicholas Thompson that while the platform still allows arts and entertainment videos an equal shot at going viral and getting lots of views and subscribers, on important areas like news media it artificially elevates “authoritative sources”.

“What we’ve done is really fine-tune our algorithms to be able to make sure that we are still giving the new creators the ability to be found when it comes to music or humor or something funny,” Wojcicki said. “But when we’re dealing with sensitive areas, we really need to take a different approach.”

Wojcicki said in addition to banning content deemed harmful, YouTube has also created a category labeled “borderline content” which it algorithmically de-boosts so that it won’t show up as a recommended video to viewers who are interested in that topic:

“When we deal with information, we want to make sure that the sources that we’re recommending are authoritative news, medical science, etcetera. And we also have created a category of more borderline content where sometimes we’ll see people looking at content that’s lower quality and borderline. And so we want to be careful about not over-recommending that. So that’s a content that stays on the platform but is not something that we’re going to recommend. And so our algorithms have definitely evolved in terms of handling all these different content types.”

Progressive commentator Kyle Kulinski has a good video out reacting to Wojcicki’s comments, saying he believes his (entirely harmless) channel has been grouped in the “borderline” category because his views and new subscribers suddenly took a dramatic and inexplicable plunge. Kulinski reports that overnight he went from getting tens of thousands of new subscriptions per month to maybe a thousand.

“People went to YouTube to escape the mainstream nonsense that they see on cable news and on TV, and now YouTube just wants to become cable news and TV,” Kulinski says. “People are coming here to escape that and you’re gonna force-feed them the stuff they’re escaping like CNN and MSNBC and Fox News.”

It is not terribly surprising to hear Susan Wojcicki admit to elevating the media of the oligarchic empire to the CEO of a neoconservative publication at the World Economic Forum. She comes from the same elite empire management background as all the empire managers who’ve been placed in charge of mainstream media outlets by their plutocratic owners, having gone to Harvard after being literally raised on the campus of Stanford University as a child. Her sister Anne is the founder of the genetic-testing company 23andMe and was married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Google itself also uses algorithms to artificially boost empire media in its searches. In 2017 World Socialist Website (WSWS) began documenting the fact that it, along with other leftist and antiwar outlets, had suddenly experienced a dramatic drop in traffic from Google searches.

In 2019 the Wall Street Journal confirmed WSWS claims, reporting that “Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results.” In 2020 the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet admitted to censoring WSWS at a Senate hearing in response to one senator’s suggestion that Google only censors right wing content.

Google, for the record, has been financially intertwined with US intelligence agencies since its very inception when it received research grants from the CIA and NSA. It pours massive amounts of money into federal lobbying and DC think tanks, has a cozy relationship with the NSA, and has been a military-intelligence contractor from the beginning.

Then you’ve got Facebook, where a third of Americans regularly get their news. Facebook is a bit less evasive about its status quo-enforcing censorship practices, openly enlisting the government-and-plutocrat-funded imperialist narrative management firm The Atlantic Council to help it determine what content to censor and what to boost. Facebook has stated that if its “fact checkers” like The Atlantic Council deem a page or domain guilty of spreading false information, it will “dramatically reduce the distribution of all of their Page-level or domain-level content on Facebook.”

All the algorithm stacking by the dominant news distribution giants Google and Facebook also ensures that mainstream platforms and reporters will have far more followers than indie media on platforms like Twitter, since an article that has been artificially amplified will receive far more views and therefore far more clicks on their social media information.

Mass media employees tend to clique up and amplify each other on Twitter, further exacerbating the divide. Meanwhile left and antiwar voices, including myself, have been complaining for years that Twitter artificially throttles their follower count.

If not for these deliberate acts of sabotage and manipulation by Silicon Valley megacorporations, the mainstream media which have deceived us into war after war and which manufacture consent for an oppressive status quo would have been replaced by independent media years ago. These tech giants are the life support system of corporate media propaganda.

By Caitlin Johnstone, TheFreedomArticles.com

Democrat Groups Plan To ‘Fact Check’ Private SMS Messages

Groups allied with the Biden administration are planning on working directly with cellphone network providers to ‘fact check’ private SMS messages if they contain “misinformation about vaccines.”

democrat groups plan to ‘fact check’ private sms messages

The revelation is made in a Politico article which explains how the White House is preparing to characterize “conservative opponents of its Covid-19 vaccine campaign as dangerous and extreme.”

The decision to ramp up the information war against vaccine skeptics was made after conservatives showed resistance to the Biden administration’s plan to go “door-to-door” to increase vaccination rates.

“Biden allied groups, including the Democratic National Committee, are also planning to engage fact-checkers more aggressively and work with SMS carriers to dispel misinformation about vaccines that is sent over social media and text messages,” states the report.

“The goal is to ensure that people who may have difficulty getting a vaccination because of issues like transportation see those barriers lessened or removed entirely.”

The prospect of the DNC and other government-affiliated groups having access to Americans’ private text messages represents a chilling surveillance dystopia.

Interfering with and trying to ‘fact check’ people’s personal conversations is also utterly demented.

Recall that ‘fact-checkers’ infamously declared the Wuhan lab leak hypothesis to be a “debunked conspiracy theory” at the start of the pandemic, only to be forced into a humiliating reversal later on.

In doing so, they may have helped facilitate one of the biggest cover-ups in modern history, so what business such groups have in snooping on people’s private SMS messages is anyone’s guess.

Reference: Summit.news

Book Burning In The XXI’st Century: Facebook Has Removed 16 Million Pieces Of Content & Added ‘Warnings’ On 167 Million

The censorship of information is at an all time high, but do people really recognize the extent to which it has been and is being carried out? A recent article published in the British Medical Journal by journalist Laurie Clarke has highlighted the fact that Facebook has already removed at least 16 million pieces of content from its platform and added warnings to approximately 167 million others.

book burning in the xxi'st century facebook has removed 16 million pieces of content & added ‘warnings’ on 167 million

YouTube has removed nearly 1 million videos related to, according to them, “dangerous or misleading covid-19 medical information.”

Being an independent media outlet, Collective Evolution has experienced this censorship first hand. We’ve also been in touch with and witnessed many doctors and world renowned scientists be subjected to the same type of treatment from these social media organizations.

Not long ago I wrote an article about Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a Harvard professor of medicine who has been having trouble with twitter.

I did the same with Dr. Carl Heneghan, a professor of evidence based medicine from Oxford and an emergency GP who wrote an article regarding the efficacy of facemasks in stopping the spread of COVID.

His article was not removed, but a label was added to it by Facebook saying it was ‘fake information.’ There are many more examples.

Clarke’s article says, with regards to posts that have been removed and labelled, that,

“while a portion of that content is likely to be wilfully wrongheaded or vindictively misleading, the pandemic is littered with examples of scientific opinion that have been caught in the dragnet.”

This is true, take for example the ‘lab origins of COVID debate.’ Early on in the pandemic you were not even allowed to mention that COVID may have originated in a lab, and if you did, you were punished for doing so.

Independent media platforms were demonetized and subjected to changes in algorithms. Now, all of a sudden, the mainstream media is discussing it as a legitimate possibility.

It makes no sense.

This underscores the difficulty of defining scientific truth, prompting the bigger question of whether social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube should be tasked with this at all…”

I think it’s quite dangerous for scientific content to be labelled as misinformation, just because of the way people might perceive that,” says Sander van der Linden, professor of social psychology in society at Cambridge University, UK.

“Even though it might fit under a definition (of misinformation) in a very technical sense, I’m not sure if that’s the right way to describe it more generally because it could lead to greater politicisation of science, which is undesirable.” – Clarke

This type of “politicization of science” is exactly what’s happened during this pandemic.

Science is being suppressed for political and financial gain. Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health. Politicians and industry are responsible for this opportunistic embezzlement. So too are scientists and health experts. The pandemic has revealed how the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency — a time when it is even more important to safeguard science. – Kamran Abbas is a doctor, executive editor of the British Medical Journal, and the editor of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. (source)

An important point to get across is also the fact that these independent “fact checkers” are working with Facebook, who in turn is working with the government.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden offered his thoughts on the censorship we’ve been seeing during this pandemic in November of last year stating the following,

In secret, these companies had all agreed to work with the U.S. Government far beyond what the law required of them, and that’s what we’re seeing with this new censorship push is really a new direction in the same dynamic.

These companies are not obligated by the law to do almost any of what they’re actually doing but they’re going above and beyond, to, in many cases, to increase the depth of their relationship (with the government) and the government’s willingness to avoid trying to regulate them in the context of their desired activities, which is ultimately to dominate the conversation and information space of global society in different ways… They’re trying to make you change your behaviour.

If you’re not comfortable letting the government determine the boundaries of appropriate political speech, why are you begging Mark Zuckerberg to do it?

I think the reality here is…it’s not really about freedom of speech, and it’s not really about protecting people from harm…I think what you see is the internet has become the de facto means of mass communication.

That represents influence which represents power, and what we see is we see a whole number of different tribes basically squabbling to try to gain control over this instrument of power.

What we see is an increasing tendency to silence journalists who say things that are in the minority.

It makes you wonder, is this “fact-checking” actually about fact checking? Or is something else going on here?

Below is a breakdown from Clarke’s article illustrating how fact checking works and what the problem is with following the science.

Since we have reported this many times over the last 5 years, we decided to let our readers hear it from someone else for a change as it’s truly quite vindicating to see more investigators coming to these conclusions.

How Fact Checking Works

The past decade has seen an arms race between users who peddle disinformation (intentionally designed to mislead) or unwittingly share misinformation (which users don’t realise is false) and the social media platforms that find themselves charged with policing it, whether they want to or not.1

When The BMJ questioned Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (which is owned by Google) they all highlighted their efforts to remove potentially harmful content and to direct users towards authoritative sources of information on covid-19 and vaccines, including the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although their moderation policies differ slightly, the platforms generally remove or reduce the circulation of content that disputes information given by health authorities such as WHO and the CDC or spreads false health claims that are considered harmful, including incorrect information about the dangers of vaccines.

But the pandemic has seen a shifting patchwork of criteria employed by these companies to define the boundaries of misinformation.

This has led to some striking U turns: at the beginning of the pandemic, posts saying that masks helped to prevent the spread of covid-19 were labelled “false”; now it’s the opposite, reflecting the changing nature of the academic debate and official recommendations.

Twitter manages its fact checking internally. But Facebook and YouTube rely on partnerships with third party fact checkers, convened under the umbrella of the International Fact-Checking Network — a non-partisan body that certifies other fact checkers, run by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit journalism school in St Petersburg, Florida.

Poynter’s top donors include the Charles Koch Institute (a public policy research organisation), the National Endowment for Democracy (a US government agency), and the Omidyar Network (a “philanthropic investment firm”), as well as Google and Facebook.

Poynter also owns the Tampa Bay Times newspaper and the high profile fact checker PolitiFact. The Poynter Institute declined The BMJ’s invitation to comment for this article.

For scientific and medical content the International Fact-Checking Network involves little known outfits such as SciCheck, Metafact, and Science Feedback.

Health Feedback, a subsidiary of Science Feedback, handpicks scientists to deliver its verdict.

Using this method, it labelled as “misleading” a Wall Street Journal opinion article2 predicting that the US would have herd immunity by April 2021, written by Marty Makary, professor of health policy and management at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

This prompted the newspaper to issue a rebuttal headlined “Fact checking Facebook’s fact checkers,” arguing that the rating was “counter-opinion masquerading as fact checking.”3

Also read: George Soros And Bill Gates Exposed As The Force Behind Facebook’s New ‘Fake News’ Detector

Makary hadn’t presented his argument as a factual claim, the article said, but had made a projection based on his analysis of the evidence.

A spokesperson for Science Feedback tells The BMJ that, to verify claims, it selects scientists on the basis of “their expertise in the field of the claim/article.”

They explain, “Science Feedback editors usually start by searching the relevant academic literature and identifying scientists who have authored articles on related topics or have the necessary expertise to assess the content.”

The organisation then either asks the selected scientists to weigh in directly or collects claims that they’ve made in the media or on social media to reach a verdict.

In the case of Makary’s article it identified 20 relevant scientists and received feedback from three.

“Follow The Science”

The contentious nature of these decisions is partly down to how social media platforms define the slippery concepts of misinformation versus disinformation.

This decision relies on the idea of a scientific consensus. But some scientists say that this smothers heterogeneous opinions, problematically reinforcing a misconception that science is a monolith.

This is encapsulated by what’s become a pandemic slogan:

“Follow the science.” David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University, calls this “absolutely awful,” saying that behind closed doors scientists spend the whole time arguing and deeply disagreeing on some fairly fundamental things.

He says:

“Science is not out in front telling you what to do; it shouldn’t be. I view it much more as walking along beside you muttering to itself, making comments about what it’s seeing and making some tentative suggestions about what might happen if you take a particular path, but it’s not in charge.”

The term “misinformation” could itself contribute to a flattening of the scientific debate. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, has been criticised for his views on lockdown, which tack closely to his native Sweden’s more relaxed strategy.4

He says that scientists who voice unorthodox opinions during the pandemic are worried about facing “various forms of slander or censoring … they say certain things but not other things, because they feel that will be censored by Twitter or YouTube or Facebook.”

This worry is compounded by the fear that it may affect grant funding and the ability to publish scientific papers, he tells The BMJ.

The binary idea that scientific assertions are either correct or incorrect has fed into the divisiveness that has characterised the pandemic. Samantha Vanderslott, a health sociologist at the University of Oxford, UK, told Nature, “Calling out fake stories can raise your profile.”

In the same article Giovanni Zagni, director of the Italian fact checking website Facta, noted that “you can build a career” on the basis of becoming “a well respected voice that fights against bad information.”5

But this has fed a perverse incentive for scientists to label each other’s positions misinformation or disinformation.6 Van der Linden likens this to how the term “fake news” was weaponised by Donald Trump to silence his critics.

He says, “I think you see a bit of the same with the term ‘misinformation,’ when there’s science that you don’t agree with and you label it as misinformation.”

Health Feedback’s website says that it won’t select scientists to verify claims if they’ve undermined their credibility by “propagating misinformation, whether intentionally or not.”

In practice, this could create a Kafkaesque situation where scientists are precluded from offering their opinion as part of the fact checking process if they expressed an opinion that Facebook labelled misinformation.

Strengthening the echo chamber effect is the fact that Health Feedback sometimes verifies claims by looking at what scientists have said on Twitter or in the media.

Scientific “Truth”

Van der Linden says that it’s important for people to understand that in the scientific domain “there’s uncertainty, there’s debate, and it’s about the accumulation of insights over time and revising our opinions as we go along.”

Healthy debate helps to separate the wheat from the chaff. Jevin West, associate professor in the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle, says that social media platforms should therefore be “extra careful when it comes to debates involving science.”

He explains:

“The institution of science has developed these norms and behaviour to be self-corrective. So, for [social media platforms] to step into that conversation, I think it’s problematic.”

Experts who spoke to The BMJ emphasised the near impossibility of distinguishing between a minority scientific opinion and an opinion that’s objectively incorrect (misinformation).

Spiegelhalter says that this would constitute a difficult “legalistic judgment about what a reasonable scientific opinion would be … I’ve got my own criteria that I use to decide whether I think something is misleading, but I find it very difficult to codify.”

Other scientists worry that, if this approach to scientific misinformation outlives the pandemic, the scientific debate could become worryingly subject to commercial imperatives.

Vinay Prasad, associate professor at the University of California San Francisco, argued on the MedPage Today website:

“The risk is that the myriad players in biomedicine, from large to small biopharmaceutical and [medical] device firms, will take their concerns to social media and journal companies. On a topic like cancer drugs, a tiny handful of folks critical of a new drug approval may be outnumbered 10:1 by key opinion leaders who work with the company.”7

Thus the majority who speak loudest, most visibly, and with the largest number online, may be judged “correct” by the public—and, as the saying goes, history is written by the victors.

Social media companies are still experimenting with the new raft of measures introduced since last year and may adapt their approach.

Van der Linden says that the talks he’s had with Facebook have focused on how the platform could help foster an appreciation of how science works, “to actually direct people to content that educates them about the scientific process, rather than labelling something as true or false.”

This debate is playing out against a wider ideological struggle, where the ideal of “truth” is increasingly placed above “healthy debate.”

Kulldorff says:

“To remove things in general, I think is a bad idea. Because even if something is wrong, if you remove it there’s no opportunity to discuss it.” For instance, although he favors vaccination in general, people with fears or doubts about the vaccines used should not be silenced in online spaces, he says.

“If we don’t have an open debate within science, then that will have enormous consequences for science and society.”

There are concerns that this approach could ultimately undermine trust in public health. In the US, says West, trust in the government and media is falling.

He explains, “Science is still one of the more trusted institutions, but if you start tagging and shutting down conversation within science, to me that’s even worse than the actual posting of these individual articles.”