"Here’s part of the piece that appeared on the Wall Street Journal."
In my March 10 column, I related the increasing public concern over the much criticized and highly problematic practice of tech giant Facebook in deleting or throttling with impunity what it tags as “misleading or misinformed pieces” in a user’s account to the point of even suspending or, worse, banning the use of such account without even a by-your-leave advise to its contracted user.
I mentioned in particular the stinging rebuke of such practice by the well respected US business daily, Wall Street Journal, citing its own highly condemnable experience with Facebook.
In an op-ed piece by no less than the paper’s editorial board entitled: Fact Checking: Facebook’s Fact Checkers” the editors exposed such an insidious and malignant practice after the tech giant labelled an article written by Johns Hopkins surgeon Marty Makary as “missing context..which could mislead people.”
The tag, which the paper’s editorial board vehemently objected to as unwarranted, was attributed to Facebook’s employment of “..left-wing vetters to shut down scientific debate..” In view of the continuing complaints raised against this malignant practice I decided to give space to an abridged version of the March 5 editorial board piece. Below is the second part of that article.
“Another fact checker says Dr. Makary incorrectly extrapolated the share of Americans who have probably been infected. We will never know this number with certainty because most people with no or mild enough symptoms don’t get tested. Antibody surveys can help extrapolate infections, but antibodies wane over time and more quickly in mild and asymptomatic cases. So they may underestimate infections.
“A study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases found that 2% of American blood donors had antibodies in mid-December 2019. Early in the spring, testing was only picking up one in 11 cases. The ratio fell by the fall to around 1 in 4 as testing expanded. Dr. Makary applied what he called a “time-weighted case capture average of 1 in 6.5.
“A disease ecologist at the University of Santa Cruz says he should have used 1 in 4, which would have extrapolated a lower estimate of infections. This is an arbitrary number and would underestimate the number of infections during the spring. She also claims the 0.23% “infection fatality rate” that Dr. Makary cites is wrong and says it is around 0.6 percent.
“Infection fatality rates (IFR) are based on models and vary by population demographics and the degree to which societies protect the elderly. Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis found the median IFR estimate across 51 locations worldwide was 0.27%, but many estimates were from the spring when there were few treatments. The infection fatality rate has since likely fallen.
“A recent study in the journal Science estimated an infection fatality rate of roughly 0.23% in Manaus, Brazil. Speaking of which, a Harvard epidemiologist takes issue with Dr. Makary’s citing Manaus as an example of ‘herd immunity.’ Epidemiologists estimated 52.5% of Manaus had been infected by June at the same time hospitalizations plunged and stayed low for seven months despite relaxed government restrictions.
“The Washington Post in August pointed to Manaus as a possible real-world example of herd immunity. Yet hospitalizations inexplicably shot up in December. A recent Lancet paper offers several hypothesis for this surge, including new virus variants that evade antibodies and flawed models. These hypotheses deserve to be investigated.
“Yet Facebook’s Harvard epidemiologist concludes Manaus should “be more than enough to demonstrate the dangers of trusting to ‘herd immunity’ from infection for protection.” It’s always a red flag when a scientist proclaims that a single piece of ambiguous evidence is enough to demonstrate anything. These Facebook fact checkers aren’t acting like scientists.”
“Scientists often disagree over how to interpret evidence. Debate is how ideas are tested and arguments are refined. But Facebook’s fact checkers are presenting their opinions as fact and seeking to silence other scientists whose views challenge their own.
“We’ve been leery of proposals in Congress to modify Section 230 protections that shield internet platforms from liability. But social-media giants are increasingly adding phony fact checks and removing articles flagged by left-leaning users without explanation. In short, they are acting like publishers in vetting and stigmatizing the content of reputable publishers. The legal privileges that enable these companies to dominate public discourse need to be debated and perhaps revised.