And this is what social media needs to do, now, today: Deplatform the proudly ignorant disinformers pushing snake oil and false hopes. Do so swiftly and mercilessly. They will whine about freedom of speech. They will cry about censorship. Let them.
How can I be so cavalier about freedom of speech? I hear the naysayers asking. Surely there is a right to say what you like? Certainly. But these are people with more than a platform. They have a megaphone. Verified accounts on social media platforms are offered extra layers of influence and spread. Claims made by those accounts are taken as having more authority and sincerity, despite the observable truth that they often do not and are simply abusing their influence. Give the liars three chances, if you like. They’ll blow it. They always do. Once that happens, delete their accounts. Deplatform them.
What, do you really think people like Laura Ingraham — who has a nightly television show broadcast all over the world — or heads of state like Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro, who have entire diplomatic networks dedicated to getting their messages to the public — will suffer for it? They will still be able to say whatever they like. They just won’t be able to disinform the public so readily. Deplatform them all.
So, social media, you should have done this a long time ago but now we are in a situation that is many orders of magnitude worse than the often-invoked “fire in a crowded theater” clause. Show the world what we all know to be true: That freedom of speech is an elegant concept that demands a sense of personal responsibility, and that freedom of speech is not an absolute right but an earned privilege that works in all directions. If your particular exercise of freedom of speech obfuscates or contravenes that same right in others, then it is no longer free by definition. So let the liars cry about their imaginary censorship. They’ll still be able to. It just won’t be used against the people of the world quite so readily in the middle of a pandemic. The time is now.
“A well informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny”. – Thomas Jefferson.