After many debates surrounding this controversial issue, Facebook has finally made the decision to ban misinformation surrounding vaccinations. The new ban will not just target false claims about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but also false claims that vaccines, in general, cause autism. The growing sentiments of anti-vaccination have finally reached a breaking point, and some are questioning if this is the right course of action. However, banning misinformation isn’t necessarily censorship, and therefore, this ruling should not be seen as such.
Censoring is defined as “examin[ing] in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable” by Merriam-Webster Dictionary. With this base definition in mind, it should be fairly obvious that misinformation about vaccines does not fall under something “objectionable,” because it is false. Censorship happens when speech is silenced because it goes against a regime, corporation or entity that doesn’t want dissenting opinions in discussions. But in the case of most anti-vaccine propaganda, their posts aren’t “dissenting.” They’re simply wrong, harming the stigma of people who have autism and preventing the next generation of children from getting the vaccinations they need to grow up healthy. Overall, it is not censorship to get rid of information that is simply not true.
Facebook and other social media users, typically those who are right-wing leaning, are often quick to call censorship because they are most likely to share “countermedia” or “fake news.” But again, if something is false or misleading, it’s not censorship if it is taken down, it is preventing people from becoming scared of something that is not as harmful as people think. Not to mention, with the number of people who believe “fake news” reportedly increasing, it seems like getting this misinformation off the internet will help more than it hinders.
In a world where journalism is heavily clouded by one party or the other, it is not hard to understand where these fears of censorship are coming from. Some might argue that misinformation could gain a mottled meaning because of this new removal policy. Thus, conservative-leaning media might get the ax even if it’s not reporting vaccine falsehoods. In these instances, it is up to social media users, regardless of political stance, to speak up against something wrongfully being taken down. But in the case of something that is purely false, such as arguments that vaccines cause autism, there is no censorship occurring when these posts are removed.
Censorship absolutely can lead to the slippery slope of social media corporations deciding what media users can and can’t post. But for the time being, we should rest easy that “fake news” surrounding vaccines will be cleared away for actual facts. Though we should keep wary of corporations overstepping their boundaries, removing falsehoods from these platforms will help prevent people from being misinformed.