Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.



A couple of days ago, a group of doctors calling themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors” made a number of what appear to be inaccurate claims about hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19. Here’s a link to Politifact’s debunking of those claims. Setting aside why someone should trust a primary care physician and minister who has previously discoursed on alien DNA and demon sperm, one might wonder why we would gravitate to opinions from a small clutch of doctors in Texas as opposed to those of, say, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and an epidemiologist named Anthony Fauci with 50 years of acknowledged expertise in the field.

But that’s not what I really want to talk about. Part of me thinks that if you want to take Hydroxychloroquine to prove Dr. Fauci and, well, me wrong — then have at it. I actually hope you’re right. I would love for you to be right. I just hope that if you’re trying this experiment you’re not someone I actually care about, because in that instance I sure as Hell don’t want to be right.

No, what I want to talk about is the uproar over Facebook and Twitter removing videos exhorting the claims of “America’s Frontline Doctors.” These social media giants are doing that because they believe the video is essentially an exhortation to suicide, and I guess for some reason, this morning Facebook got a good look at itself in the mirror and didn’t like what it saw. And so it and Twitter are shutting down the video wherever it pops up on their sites in a frenzied game of Whac-a-mole.

Which presents a problem for them. A problem of exposure.

Facebook (like Twitter, I believe) says their site is a platform and not a publisher; a platform merely hosts content for others, while a publisher necessarily adjudicates the relative merit of the content it publishes and therefore runs the risk of liability. If, say, the journal Nature publishes a scientific article, that’s because the editors and publisher of Nature believe it to be true. That applies to the Wall Street Journal, and CBS News, and the people behind OAN probably have talked themselves into believing it too. And so, in trying to take an active role now in adjudicating content, Facebook is blurring the line, leaving us wondering just what Facebook is. As we used to ask about Razzles when I was a kid, “Is it a candy? Or is it a gum?”

I’ll be interested to see where this goes. 2016 made it very clear that social media platforms have too much power, particularly in using algorithmic response to leverage mass action; in an earlier time, we would have broken them up already or regulated them. We went after comic books, for Pete’s sake, in the 1950s (with a House investigative committee), and we broke up Ma Bell when I was a kid, but Facebook and Twitter and, God help us, TikTok (which is a direct line to the Chinese government), are just doing whatever they like with no guiderails.

The Razzles controversy, you’ll be glad to know, was finally settled. Not just by me — at about age 8, I decided that it was a candy, because nobody should want to swallow gum! — but also by Tootsie Roll Inc. In weasely fashion, they’ve decided that “First it’s candy, then a gum!”

I expect a similar defense from Facebook and Twitter.

3 Responses to “Fakebook”

  1. Dan Says:

    “This American Carnage ends here and it ends now!”
    –Donald J Chump, 1/20/17

  2. David McGraw Says:

    When do we get to vote for those people who get to determine what is right and what is wrong? I can’t wait to meet the thought police! 🙂

    Your either for Free Speech, or not, there is no middle ground. Instead of censoring people, we should focus on empowering everyone to “Make Critical Thinking Great Again” and let people decide for themselves what is conspiracy and what isn’t.

  3. Mark Chaet Says:

    Their video (assuming what I’ve heard about it is true), and drumpy re-tweeting it (or whatever it is he did to promote it) are just another step into the upsidedown world. The various cons, frauds, thefts and misuse of power that come out of 1600 Penn are plenty scary. That he (they) keep getting away with this crap is seriously messing with my head.

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