Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is diving into the heart of a national debate over a hotly disputed medical treatment that’s turned political. On Monday, the conservative Republican sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, over his censorship of a recent video.
Facebook removed a video last month from a group calling itself “America’s Frontline Doctors.” The video argued for the use of hydroxychloroquine in treating coronavirus patients. It included footage of one doctor calling the drug a “cure” and arguing that there’s no need to take precautions such as wearing masks.
Zuckerberg says he pulled the video because “it could cause imminent risk of harm.” Landry accused Zuckerberg of employing a double standard.
“These doctors provided personal experience and findings that countered misinformation provided by the World Health Organization, (WHO) an entity which has experienced no censorship from your company during this global pandemic,” Landry wrote. “We all know the WHO has been wrong about the virus repeatedly: not transferable human to human, no need for travel bans, no need for masks, death rate of 3% or more … the list goes on. Yet Facebook is using the WHO as an expert source while limiting the voices of others who might disagree with their information.”
During these highly partisan times of robotlike groupthink, Americans on the left and right seem to take a 180-degree different view on most issues. Who would have thought this toxic tribalism would spill over to medicine?
A Rasmussen survey of 1,000 Americans recently found 53% of Republicans were willing to take hydroxychloroquine while the same was true for only 18% of Democrats.
How you come down on hydroxychloroquine likely depends on where you get your information. Most left-leaning media outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN go out of their way to convince viewers and readers that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19 patients. There are plenty of medical experts arguing the drug does not help with COVID-19 patients.
Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said last week the hydroxychloroquine debate should be between doctor and patient.
“A doctor and a patient need to assess the data that's out there. The FDA does not regulate the practice of medicine, and that is the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship is where that decision should be made,” Hahn said.
After President Donald Trump praised hydroxychloroquine the national media collectively decided the drug was not effective. They promoted the anti-hydroxychloroquine experts and demonized those favoring its use.
But Landry’s beef with Zuckerberg is not over media bias. Zuckerberg provides a platform which is different than a news publisher. Facebook is arguably one of the most powerful companies on the planet, now closing in on 2 billion accounts.
News consumers can decipher through all the media bias and decide for themselves what’s true and what’s not: They know to get the full story they may have to access different media outlets. But when Facebook, as a platform, censors information, it robs the news consumer of the chance to make up their own mind on issues.
There are plenty of liberal and conservative media outlets competing for viewers and readers. But there’s only one Facebook. Landry is right to confront Zuckerberg on his abuse of power. Zuckerberg and other tech giants like Twitter and Google should trust their customers and not appoint themselves as guardians of what information “could cause imminent risk of harm.”
Email Dan Fagan at Faganshow@gmail.com.