Social media cannot be allowed to suppress scientific discourse, critics said after Facebook “ fact-checkers ” were branded “ bogus ” by an Oxford professor’s report citing a Danish study on the effectiveness of masks against Covid-19.
“[What] has it come to academic freedom and freedom of speech? There is nothing in this article that is “wrong”, “ Carl Heneghan, director of the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, said Friday.
He posted a Facebook screenshot flagging his article for Spectator magazine as “ Fake news, ” citing “Independent fact checkers.”
Heneghan was discussing the long-delayed study on the effectiveness of face masks, conducted in Denmark and finally published this week. One of the few randomized controlled trials of masks, it suggested that masks alone do not work in stopping the spread of Covid-19.
Monitoring 6,024 adult participants for a month, half of them receiving masks and instructions on how to use them, Danish scientists found that 1.8% of mask wearers had contracted the virus, up from 2.1 % in the control group.
While the masks have an effect, the Danish researchers wrote, they alone cannot stop the spread of the coronavirus. However, the Western political establishment – including the tech giants of Silicon Valley – essentially views this heresy and has called the study “ false information. ”
Health officials like the US CDC recently updated their position, insisting that masks are even more effective against transmitting the coronavirus than previously believed, protecting the wearer as well as others.
Heneghan found himself attacked by other scholars, such as Thomas Conti of Brazil, for citing an allegedly “very insufficient” study that was poorly designed and showed zero results, arguing that the masks absolutely work.
“Criticize the study then!” replied lockdown historian and critic Phil Magness, adding that the problem to be addressed is “Social media platforms censor stories about it because they don’t like the political implications.”
Dame Helena Morrissey, a Conservative member of the British House of Lords, supported this sentiment.
“It’s a very dangerous direction of travel compared to what science really is; our freedom of expression, our diversity of thought and our democratic standards, regardless of what anyone thinks of Covid-19 ”, she tweeted to support Heneghan.
The Oxford professor is a well-known critic of lockdown tactics used by governments around the world to try to stop, slow or mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus. Earlier this month, he argued that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government used bad data to justify a second lockdown, which began on November 5.
He was also one of the co-authors of an open letter in September urging 10 Downing Street to focus on protecting the most vulnerable members of society. The existing policy for removing the virus via lockouts is “More and more impractical … and causes significant damage in all age groups, which probably negates all the benefits”, said the letter.
Social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter implemented sweeping restrictions earlier this year, citing the need to “Prevent disinformation”, targeting everything related to Covid-19 first and later on political topics like the US presidential election. Critics have argued that this amounts to acting as publishers, which would go beyond U.S. legal protections for the platforms, but no censorship court challenges have been staged so far.
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