Mark Zuckerberg, why do you allow the mob to censor science communicators?

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Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

It must be extremely difficult to run Facebook, a multi-billion dollar business spread around the globe. A lot of things are automated — for obvious reasons —and therefore subject to unforeseen error. That’s why I suspect you never intended for Facebook to become an instrument to censor science communicators. But sadly, that’s what has happened.

Facebook allows the anti-science mob to shut down the pages of doctors and scientists who dare to provide accurate information about the COVID-19 pandemic, just as it has been allowing the mob to shut down pages of doctors and scientists who dare to provide accurate information about a myriad of scientific issues. How? By automating the complaint process, Facebook lets the mob “vote” against scientific information it doesn’t like.

There should be a special category of Facebook page for science communicators requiring a higher level of complaint vetting.

For example, in April 2019 I was banned from Facebook for 24 hours for daring to note a scientific fact: I was banned for calling into question the naturalistic fallacy by pointing out that while unmedicated vaginal birth and breastfeeding are natural, so is rape.

Entire books have been devoted to this issue, including A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion. Predictably, some people were upset, reasoning — wrongly — that if rape is natural, it must follow that rape is excusable. Ironically, they were demonstrating the point I had set out to prove: that natural childbirth advocates and lactivists have become blind to the real meaning of the word “natural.”

The mob reported my post for using the word ‘rape’ and the post was removed and I was banned from Facebook for 24 hours. In other words, Mr. Zuckerberg, you let the mob censor me, a science communicator, because I offended their unscientific sensibilities.

Now I’ve been banned for 7 days for daring to promote masking during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I wrote a post suggesting — tongue in cheek — A Modest Proposal: No COVID Coverage For Anti-Maskers:

How can we combat health conspiracies among anti-maskers, people who don’t understand or don’t believe scientific evidence? I suggest a simple expedient; insurance companies should refuse to pay for COVID-19 infections and complications of those who refuse to follow public health recommendations on masks and social distancing.

The post reached tens of thousands of people and generated nearly 2,000 comments, most of them from hysterical anti-maskers. When their “arguments” and insults failed to convince me that masks are unnecessary, they “voted” their dissatisfaction by reporting the post to Facebook.

Mr. Zuckerberg, for the life of me I can’t understand what community standards the post has violated. Perhaps you have more insight into my supposed malfeasance, but it doesn’t matter. The mob has convinced Facebook to punish me and — because I had a previous (inappropriate) punishment on my record — I have been banned for 7 days. Of course I appealed, but I have heard nothing.

Fortunately, I have a co-administrator who can still post but I’m calling on that person sparingly to avoid that person being banned.

So here’s my question, Mr. Zuckerberg: why do you allow the mob to censor science communicators on Facebook?

Is it, as I hope, unintentional? Is it an unintended consequence of being forced to rely so heavily on automation? If so, I have a proposal that I hope you will consider:

Could you create a special — verified — category of Facebook page for science communicators that would trigger a higher level of complaint vetting? Once you verified the professional qualifications of the doctor, scientist or science journalist, those pages would no longer be subject to banning on the basis of the volume of complaints but would require human scrutiny before posts were removed or writers censored. This would effectively disempower the mob and free science communicators from their wrath.

I recognize that would involve more work, and therefore less profit. So why would you do it? I hope you would do it to keep the world safe for science. Do you want your children to grow up in a world where doctors, scientists and science communicators can be easily muzzled by an angry mob that despises them? Or do you want them to grow up in a world where science and education are venerated?

It’s your choice, Mr. Zuckerberg. Please do the right thing and accord science — and science communicators — the respect they deserve.

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  • Libby Ann Best

    Candace Owens is suing Mark Zukerberg for this very reason. When actual doctors say something, their statements are “fact-checked” and deleted by phone “fact-checkers”. https://www.factcheckzuck.com/

    • Heidi

      Lol. Candace Owens is suing for herself. Go scurry to Parler now.

  • fiftyfifty1

    That Facebook banned something with a title that starts with “A Modest Proposal:” is either very sad or very funny, I’m not sure which. Sheesh, these words have been a clear signal of satire since the year 1729.