Stanford University Professor of Health Policy Dr. Jay Bhattacharya tells lawmakers that “government actions to create an illusion of scientific consensus” regarding COVID-19 policies “has harmed the health and wellbeing of every single American.”
Providing expert witness testimony today before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology during a hearing called “Preserving Free Speech and Reining in Big Tech Censorship,” Dr. Bhattacharya testified that the government was involved in a propaganda campaign to censor scientists and regular people.
“A key part of the government’s propaganda campaign supporting lockdowns and other pandemic strategies was censorship of discourse by scientists and regular people,” said Dr. Bhattacharya.
“There is nearly a dozen federal agencies including the CDC, Office of the Surgeon General, and the White House [that] pressured social media companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to censor and de-boost even true speech that contradicted federal pandemic priorities, especially inconvenient facts about COVID vaccines, such as their inefficacy against COVID disease transmission,” he added.
“Many people suffered from destructive policies like school closures and vaccine passports” — Dr. Jay Bhattacharya
“If there’s anything we’ve learned from the pandemic is that the First Amendment is more important during a pandemic, not less” — Dr. Jay Bhattacharya
Dr. Bhattacharya went on to explain:
“I think that the government’s actions to create an illusion of scientific consensus on those topics has harmed the health and wellbeing of every single American.
“It closed small businesses; it meant that little children couldn’t go to school; minority kids specifically were harmed more — because it was minority kids’ schools that were closed more — and many people who were under the impression that the vaccine would stop transmission, and it didn’t, were also harmed because they were refused the ability to get the full set of facts about the vaccines when they were making those decisions whether to take them.”
Overton, for his part disagreed with the premise of the hearing.
“Private companies have a First Amendment right to exclude content as they see fit, and that they are not preventing ‘free speech’ or ‘censoring’ users when they engage in content moderation” — Spencer Overton
“This hearing’s framing, “Preserving Free Speech and Reining in Big Tech Censorship,” inaccurately presents the decisions of private platforms to ignore, de-amplify, flag, remove, or criticize certain content posted by users as censorship. In fact, such decisions are exactly what the First Amendment protects. Indeed, government attempts to threaten this right is censorship,” Overton submitted in his written testimony.
“Singling out so-called ‘Big Tech’ is moreover selective and misleading, as plenty of small companies have outsized influence on public discourse and cause serious harm,” he added.
According to Overton, “The larger point is that private companies have a First Amendment right to exclude content as they see fit, and that they are not preventing ‘free speech’ or ‘censoring’ users when they engage in content moderation.”