In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.
Art Caplan, a professor of bioethics and head of the division of medical ethics at New York University School of Medicine, said companies cannot allow themselves to be “vehicles for misinformation contagion.”
“You can certainly post things that oppose vaccination — individuals can speak their minds. But when you have websites that are presenting false information, debunked information or, similarly, books that tout phony cures, I think there is a role for somebody in censorship,” said Caplan, who co-authored a 2017 paper on “The overlooked dangers of anti-vaccination groups’ social media presence.” Caplan said that it is important for companies to exclude such misinformation “because the power of social media, particularly in the vaccine space, is so strong that it’s leading to fear of vaccines, which is leading to epidemics, which is putting people at risk.”
Joe Holt, a business ethics professor at the University of Notre Dame, said the problem with businesses being forced to play a censorship role is that most of them, if not all of them, probably never intended to do that. But now, he said, “there’s more and more external pressure for them to do more censoring.