By Yeol Jang
The author is a local news reporter of The Korea Daily.
Throughout the pandemic, governments and big tech companies closed the public’s eyes and ears by providing one-sided information about COVID-19 and vaccines, clouding the public’s judgment.
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta (formerly Facebook), has been vocal about this issue. In a recent appearance on Lex Fridman’s podcast, Fridman, a deep learning scientist with more than 3 million subscribers and a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Zuckerberg discussed the demands made by governments and the scientific community to censor certain COVID-19-related information on Facebook.
He also revealed the pressure exerted by the Biden administration on big tech. Rob Flaherty, then the White House’s director of digital strategy, allegedly sent emails demanding censorship measures for information that contradicted the agenda, including content that cast doubt on vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also played a role by providing a censorship list.
“Unfortunately, many of the things we censored turned out to be true,” said Zuckerberg. “And they made it sound like there would be consequences if we didn’t comply with their demands.”
Facebook alone removed 18 million pieces of content due to censorship. They entrusted power to a company with no medical expertise, and big tech wielded it arbitrarily. The control and obfuscation of “facts” were rampant.
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University School of Medicine had his social media accounts deleted during the pandemic for opposing lockdowns and sharing stories of vaccine side effects. In response to Zuckerberg, Dr. Bhattacharya cynically stated, “Zuckerberg served as an enforcer for government propaganda during the pandemic. His regime of censorship on Facebook – allowing falsehoods and censoring truth – enabled school closures, vaccine mandates, toddler masking, and much more. Glad to see some humility here.”
Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a former medical ethics professor at the UC Irvine School of Medicine, was fired after writing against the school’s vaccine mandate. He is now suing the federal government, along with doctors and lawyers, seeking legal recourse for the harm caused by government censorship during the pandemic. Dr. Kheriaty argues, “Constitutional jurisprudence on free speech shows that the right exists not only for the speaker but also for the listener. Americans have a right to hear both sides of a controversial issue, and the government has prevented them from doing so.”
Censorship, when trapping the public in confirmation bias, creates a black comedy in real life. In the name of science, a safe distance of 6 feet was set for the first time, accompanied by plastic shields. It was assumed that a single barrier could keep out microscopic virus particles in open and airy spaces. People wore masks when entering restaurants but took them off when food was served.
Initially, the vaccine required only two doses and was said to prevent infection and transmission. People believed they could roll up their sleeves and be done with it. There was even a term called cross-vaccination, where some individuals received two different vaccines to maximize effectiveness.
However, they kept changing their statements, causing confusion. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, even earned the nickname “flip-flop.” When that didn’t work, blame was shifted to the unvaccinated, labeling them as more dangerous than the virus. Daily routines were restricted, and jobs were threatened. Unvaccinated students were excluded from classes.
Attempts were made to force vaccinations on children without parental consent, and newborns were given vaccines with no long-term side effect data available. Unlike other vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine was not included in the federal government’s Vaccine Indemnity Compensation Program (VICP), leaving individuals responsible for any damages caused by the vaccines.
What made the pandemic truly egregious was the erosion of free speech during a public health crisis. As time has passed, COVID-19 has faded from public consciousness, and the policies based on excessive fear are now difficult to justify. What was initially dismissed as fake news is turning out to be true.
There is a growing fear that the smoke is slowly clearing, including for individuals like Zuckerberg. Unable to hide it any longer, he is finally starting to come clean.