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Davis Journal

Don’t let the internet keep you from the truth

Sep 24, 2021 11:36AM ● By Bryan Gray

In his biography, Robert Iger, the CEO of Disney Corporation, recalled his first career job working as a low-paid “gofer” at ABC Television. It was a simpler world, he said.

“Certainly, there was a shared American narrative, organized around a general societal belief in basic facts,” he wrote.

That was then…This is now.  The internet is the culprit and attempts to restore trust and truth are sneered at by partisan political skeptics.

The Texas legislature recently passed a law – and dozens of states including Utah are considering similar legislation – making it illegal for social media companies to restrict and remove political statements deemed to be false and dangerous. Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter are suing the state claiming that private companies can reasonably decide what is disinformation and decide whether or not to allow nonsense on its platform.

According to a technology spokesman, “What is said online doesn’t just stay online; it spills over into people’s lives and impacts our health, our democracy, and our communities.”  

The elephant in the room is the decision by social media giants to remove comments from Donald Trump which the companies found to be untrue and “red meat” for angry supporters vowing mayhem and rioting. The Trump argument that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud and rigged elections has been heard and dismissed by some 200 different courts. The idiotic comment by a congressman that costumed rioters attacking police at the U.S. Capitol were “merely tourists” is as ludicrous as it is false.

As the Disney executive said, a civilized society must have a belief in basic facts. Supposedly, we are an educated country. Yet when it comes to the COVID vaccine, at least 20% of Americans believe the undocumented views of a plumber rather than the scientific data from a physician. A significant number of people still believe that Republican George W. Bush was the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, not Osama bin Laden.

How would an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feel if Facebook allowed false claims that President Russell Nelson abused little boys in the Salt Lake Temple? How would Catholics feel if social media followers were fed crap about the Pope having a rape room at the Vatican? What would we say about a Google entry suggesting that any woman who has ever had an abortion be killed? How about a “medical report” claiming that cigarette smoking is good for the lungs?

I doubt many would support the comments as “free expression” good for public consideration. Yet millions of Americans believe from internet posts that Hillary Clinton tortures babies, that the polio vaccine wasn’t effective, and the Holocaust never happened.

Don’t write to me about the “cancel culture.” We are talking about spurious information and inflammatory lies being removed to mitigate harm and increase public understanding based on verified facts. Yes, we did send a man to the moon, Black Americans were once enslaved and later “red-lined” out of purchasing homes in major cities, and excessive shots of Jack Daniels can increase your risk of liver disease. Facts, my friends!

Our shared narrative in America should not be destroyed by an uneducated blowhard lighting a match to a gasoline tank. Facts are facts and private companies have a responsibility and right to police their platforms. It’s their job, not that of a state legislator selling his or her personal swill.