by Bretigne Shaffer, Lew Rockwell:
Recently, the news and opinion site HuffPost removed an article that had been up for more than six years. The piece, titled “Government Concedes Vaccine-Autism Case in Federal Court – Now What?” was published in January of 2013, and dealt with a case in which the US government’s Court of Federal Claims conceded that routine vaccination had aggravated a child’s underlying condition and led to that child developing “features of autism spectrum disorder.”
Now, the following statement appears in place of that article:
A previous blog post published on this site has been removed in the interest of public health. The article expressed the sole opinion of its author, who retains the rights to publish it elsewhere. Multiple studies have demonstrated that vaccines are safe and effective. Our letter from the editor has more on this decision.
This retraction did not occur in a vacuum. The first half of 2019 has seen a coordinated effort to scrub the Internet of any information that is critical of the claim that “vaccines are safe and effective.” The push began last fall, but gained momentum in January when the World Health Organization declared “vaccine hesitancy” to be a “global health threat,” placing it alongside Ebola, cancer, war zones, and drug-resistant pathogens.
On March 1st, US Congressman Adam Schiff wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and, after stating that “there is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause life-threatening or disabling diseases,” expressed his concern that Amazon might be allowing content with “medically inaccurate information.” He asked what action Amazon was taking to address “misinformation about vaccines.”
Later that day, Amazon pulled from its streaming service the documentary “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” along with other “anti-vaccine” documentaries including “Man Made Epidemic“ and “The Greater Good,” a film that “…weaves together the stories of families whose lives have been forever changed by vaccination.”
Schiff had written similar letters to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Not long after Amazon pulled the documentaries from its streaming service, other platforms began to follow suit. On March 7, Facebook announced that it would reduce the visibility of groups and pages that “spread misinformation about vaccinations,” and would no longer accept advertisements containing what it deemed to be “misinformation” about vaccines.
Back in August of 2018, Pinterest had already begun removing content (later accounts, and then search results) that it said contained “medical misinformation,” and in February, YouTube demonetized all videos that “promoted anti-vaccination content.” Etsy, Vimeo, MailChimp, and GoFundMe have all joined these other platforms in pledging to either prohibit or demote content deemed to contain “misinformation” about vaccines.
So what is the “misinformation” that the WHO, Congressman Schiff, and these social-media giants are so determined to remove from public view? Let’s start with the article mentioned above that was pulled from HuffPost:
The piece—which you can now read here—deals with the case of Hannah Poling, whose family was awarded more than $1.5 million by the US Court of Federal Claims after it acknowledged that her “regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder…” was the result of vaccinations she received at 18 months that aggravated an underlying mitochondrial condition. The article is a fairly straightforward accounting of the case, followed by questions it raises about such issues as research, public health, and the vaccine-autism debate.
HuffPost’s letter from the editor, explaining its reasoning for removing articles like this one, states:
HuffPost has decided to remove dozens of blogs that perpetuate the unfounded opinion that vaccines pose a health risk to the public. Allowing these blogs to remain on our platform does a disservice to our readers that outweighs any ostensible value as part of the public record.
HuffPost’s editors also chose to remove the Federal Claims Court document itself, which had been posted separately. Where that document was once found, there is now the same statement that replaced the above article, along with the assertion that it “…expressed the sole opinion of its author.”
But that is complete nonsense. There is no “author” of this piece (other than for the very brief introduction to the document), and it does not represent anyone’s “opinion.” It is an official record of a concession made by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, submitted to a Federal court. It is indeed a part of the public record—a part that HuffPost’s editorial team doesn’t believe its readers should be able to see.
Other “misinformation” that has been removed from major platforms include this fully referenced article by Anne Mason, on the scare tactics being used to incite fear of measles, taken down by Medium in February, and the Pinterest accounts of both GreenMedInfo and the National Vaccine Information Center, both of which provide well-referenced information on vaccine safety and efficacy.
In June, the email marketing service provider MailChimp announced that it would prohibit “anti-vaccination content.” However, even before announcing this policy change, it had already removed several accounts without warning, according to their owners. Some of these included organizations simply opposed to vaccine mandates, such as Health Choice Vermont, and Colorado Health Choice Alliance, both of which had their accounts closed suddenly in June.
And in May, GoFundMe took down the fundraising campaign for Dr. Kenneth Stoller. Dr. Stoller had been raising money for his legal defense fund after having been served with a subpoena to turn over patient health records by the San Francisco City Attorney as part of a public nuisance investigation regarding his writing of medical exemptions to vaccines.
As these last two examples reveal, this effort aims to suppress not only voices that question the official line on vaccines, but also those that are opposed simply to mandated vaccines, as well as a doctor raising money to defend himself from the threat of state action against himself and his patients.
Given the deep concern felt by these media giants for accuracy in coverage of the controversy over vaccines, it is surprising to find that so much misinformation on the topic remains in place on their platforms.
Contrary to the oft-repeated mantra in the mainstream press, the science about vaccines is far from “settled.” There is much that is a fair topic for debate, and there is much research that simply has not been done. There are, however, some easily refuted falsehoods, several of which feature prominently in nearly every story on vaccines that appears in a major media outlet.