Late last week US President Joe Biden achieved something I’d thought impossible: He got me to feel bad for Mark Zuckerberg.

Sure, it was only a little bad, but that’s no small feat. As I spent the weekend brushing up on funereal dirges to play on my tiny violin, I couldn’t help but marvel at the president’s rhetorical shoddiness regarding Facebook’s role in Americans’ refusal to get vaccinated, the most important obstacle to the nation’s full recovery from the pandemic.

By accusing Facebook and other social media companies of “killing people” through what Biden said was their lax policing of vaccine misinformation, the president reduced the complex scourge of runaway vaccine hesitancy into a cartoonishly simple matter of product design: If only Facebook would hit its Quit Killing People button, the world would be healed again.

Americans’ refusal to get vaccinated

Polls show that about a fifth of Americans refuse to get a COVID vaccine, and the divide is highly partisan.Credit:AP

Worse, Biden fed into the bogus right-wing notion that Facebook and other social media giants now operate as media arms of the Democratic Party, a belief that will only undermine whatever greater action against vaccine nonsense that the companies might take. If Facebook decides tomorrow to ban all criticism of the COVID-19 vaccines, its actions will be instantly undermined as Big Tech censoring “the truth” to satisfy the radical left or some other such reflexive dismissal.

On cue, The Wall Street Journal editorial board declared on Monday that Biden was only criticising Facebook because “Facebook has bent to politicians far too much, inviting this latest assault.”

Finally, in the blundering way he took on the tech giants, Biden illustrated the profound challenges that bedevil calls for stricter regulation of social media. Facebook and Twitter, like The New York Times and Fox News, enjoy a right protected by the First Amendment to post or to amplify — or to not post or not amplify — just about any legal content they care to.

The president reduced the complex scourge of runaway vaccine hesitancy into a cartoonishly simple matter of product design: If only Facebook would hit its Quit Killing People button, the world would be healed again.

In a free society, a president accusing a media company — even one whose chief executive insists it’s not a media company — of mass death simply for disseminating legal content should make us all a little uncomfortable. Sure, Facebook has a right to kick you off its site for lying about vaccines — but if the president fiercely extols Facebook to do so, the argument that you’re being censored by the government becomes a lot more plausible.

You might defend Biden’s passion here on the grounds of public health. But it’s probably past the point of utility. Researchers who study vaccine hesitancy say that social networks play a huge role in the spread of dangerous lies about vaccines. Perhaps there was a time, months or years ago, when Facebook and other social media companies had the power to stop the anti-vaccine movement from swallowing up so many people.


Japan travel news, japan travel guides, japan holiday destinations and japan reviews

LATEST NEWS

NEWS RELATED

Square to buy Australia's Afterpay for $39 billion

'Buy now pay later' pioneer snapped up.

Read more: Square to buy Australia's Afterpay for $39 billion

Rugby Australia brings 'data-informed culture' to all levels of the game

Podcast: An insider's view on data strategy, architecture and current tech trials.

Read more: Rugby Australia brings 'data-informed culture' to all levels of the game

Twitter launches competition to find biases in its image-cropping algorithm

After earlier research uncovered issues.

Read more: Twitter launches competition to find biases in its image-cropping algorithm

Zoom reaches $115 million settlement over user privacy, 'Zoombombing'

Will bolster its security practices to settle a lawsuit.

Read more: Zoom reaches $115 million settlement over user privacy, 'Zoombombing'

University of South Australia creates CISO role

Looks to strengthen its cyber security.

Read more: University of South Australia creates CISO role

‘A really ugly playing field’: How tech is tackling online trolling of athletes

Simone Biles’ shock exit from the gymnastics teams event at the Olympics last week led to the five-time Olympic medallist being both praised and pilloried on social media for prioritising her mental health. “Choke! The great athletes do not choke and quit under pressure,” one person posted. “You wanna blame…

Read more: ‘A really ugly playing field’: How tech is tackling online trolling of athletes

Sky News Australia suspended and handed a strike from YouTube

Sky News Australia has been suspended from uploading content to YouTube for a week after the video and livestreaming platform claimed the media organisation breached its COVID-19 misinformation standards. In a statement issued to Nine newspapers this afternoon, a YouTube spokesperson said the website had taken steps against Sky, including…

Read more: Sky News Australia suspended and handed a strike from YouTube

Justin Hemmes’ long-term influencer houseguest joins OnlyFans

Up until recently, Instagram ‘model’ and fashion influencer Indi Thew was the envy of every young girl with a social media account. The 24-year-old petite blonde posts photos of her travelling on private jets, holidaying at exclusive hotels and hanging out with her top model pals. Thew is best friends…

Read more: Justin Hemmes’ long-term influencer houseguest joins OnlyFans

Victorian govt poaches Services Australia CIO

Culture blockers remain the biggest barrier to DevOps, says Puppet study

AFP searches for a tracking system that supports 4G, 5G devices

Analytics behemoth SAS plans to go public in 2024

NAB finds a new chief security officer

NSW Education says cyber attack may have compromised contact data

Advice on preventing your company information from being leaked

SenseTime opens its SenseTime International AI Innovation Hub in Singapore

OTHER NEWS