- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2019

Facebook censors have found a new target, it seems.

Company executives told Bloomberg News that they’re considering cutting from their pages any news that undercuts vaccinations — meaning, anyone who disagrees with the government about the need to vaccinate kids will see one of their key platforms completely shuttered.

Move over, conservatives. Apparently, the new enemy of the social media people is — drumroll, please — the anti-vaccination movement. And what a considerable movement it is.

Even Hollywood types of far-left political leanings have questioned the need to vaccinate children to the degree public schools demand. Jenny McCarthy, Jenna Elfman, Jim Carrey — all three have come forward in recent years to protest mandated vaccines, saying they’re not so much against the shots as rather in favor of a “safe vaccine schedule” that doesn’t flood and overwhelm a child’s body, as McCarthy put it, during one PBS interview reported by Jezebel.

Then there was this, from the Washington Post in February 2017: “Cause Celeb: Robert De Niro continues to question vaccines.”

And this, from Global News that same year and month: “Robert De Niro, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. offer $100K to anyone who can provide proof vaccines are safe.”

And this, from the New York Post and Fox News, also from February 2017 — a story that included this: “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention declared that there is no connection between the vaccines and autism, however … De Niro — who is the father of an autistic child — has his doubts. ‘Who settled it, how is it settled?’ he said in regards to the CDC’s claim.”

And lookie here: President Donald Trump tweeted in 2014, before he came to White House town: “If I were President I would push for proper vaccinations but would not allow one time massive shots that a small child cannot take — AUTISM.”

But Facebook is calling those concerns conspiracy.

After receiving complaints from Rep. Adam Schiff about these concerns being expressed so openly on the social media platform, Facebook executives said they’re “exploring addition measures to best combat the problem,” measures that could include “reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations, including Groups You Should Join, and demoting it in search results, while also ensuring that higher quality and more authoritative information is available,” the Hill reported.

Yes, because what quells a so-called conspiracy theorist more than covering up and concealing and censoring, right?

Facebook’s job is not to censor. In fact, its mission statement, amended as it was in 2017, is to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

That means even those with views that go against the grain ought to be included in Facebook discussions, in Facebook recommended news feeds, among Facebook media pages. If not, why not?

Or the better question: What’s to fear?

Facebook ought to think carefully before shutting down the exchange of ideas on vaccinations. Censorship isn’t just un-American. It can actually spark backlash. It can actually backfire.

And if Facebook truly thinks safe vaccination and anti-vaccination movement is all about conspiracy and tin foil hats, then shutting social media doors on these thoughts and ideas may very well fuel the talk further. Facebook censors may emerge as the anti-vaccination movement’s biggest friend.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter @ckchumley.

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