A Fighting Note To Begin The Year


A new calendar year begins! Hope that the year ahead brings happiness, accomplishments and contentment to you, dear readers, and to your families and friends. I don't do new year resolutions - I find them pointless - but I hope to be a little more regular with my writing this year, and wish for your continued readership and kind patronage.

Which is partly why I wish I could bring you glad tidings in the first post of 2014, but I can't. Let me begin with a lamentation uttered by a noted science-blogger and friend, Dr. David Gorski (with whose work many of you are familiar), in his first post of the year - because I agree with it so much.

This is not what I had wanted to write about for my first post of 2014, but unfortunately it’s necessary—so much so, in fact, that I felt the obligation to crosspost both here and on my not-so-super-secret other blog in order to get this information out to as wide a readership as possible.

... Basically, the merry band of antivaccinationists [...] has discovered a quirk in the algorithm Facebook uses to process harassment complaints against users and abused that quirk relentlessly to silence its opponents on Facebook.

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this post; David - citing the experience of Dorit Reiss, a lawyer opposed to the antivaccine nonsense, and others - explains how a dedicated group of technologically savvy antivaccination folks are abusing the automated post-reporting algorithm of Facebook to silence any criticism from pro-science, pro-vaccination advocates. Using spurious complaints of 'harassment', the antivaccinationists have managed to get Facebook enact the automated 12-hour ban from use upon several noted pro-science advocates, including scientists and physicians, such as Rachel Dunlop (@DrRachie on Twitter), Peter Bowditch (@RatbagsDotCom on Twitter), Joanne Benhamu (@JoBenhamu on Twitter), and several others. This abuse of Facebook reporting is in addition to other spiteful strategies in which the antivaccinationists engage, such as DMCA takedown complaints and flagging as spam posts that are critical of them. These tactics are quite reminiscent of the pathetic attempts by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) to silence Dr. Simon Singh for criticizing them - by using the broad scope of UK Libel Laws; these attempts have been unsuccessful (but not before subjecting Dr. Singh to a great personal cost), and recently, significant changes were brought to these libel laws - via the Defamation Act 2013 - to remove the stultifying effect that these laws have so long had on fair and legitimate criticism and debate.

Please go read David's post as well as the links to other posts. Many of us here in Scilogs write about pseudoscience and pseudoscience-peddlers. It is quite possible that some of us may become targets of the anti-science elements. The only way to this is make this situation widely publicized, so as to raise awareness about this situation. As David pointed out in his post, whatever its faults, Facebook is still a useful platform, with a broad reach, for disseminating scientifically accurate information, and building communities for wider communication of science, scientific ideas and exchanges, as well as education. Those of us who are interested in science should not passively allow this and other public platform(s) to be taken over by anti-science elements.


4 Responses to “A Fighting Note To Begin The Year”

  1. Lee Turnpenny Reply | Permalink

    Right on, bro'! Thanks for posting this - I will link to it on my own Facebook page.

    All best to yersen for 2014, also.

    • Kausik Datta Reply | Permalink

      Good to hear from you, as always, Lee! I hope 2014 brings great things to you, too.

  2. Joanne Benhamu Reply | Permalink

    Thanks for helping us get some attention on this issue. I never fail to be astounded by the rank hypocrisy of those crying censorship when criticised for spreading dangerous misinformation, while simultaneously attempting to silence one's critics.

    • Kausik Datta Reply | Permalink

      Thank you, Joanne, for all that you do. Misinformation - not to mention, outright lies, sometimes - of this kind is indeed very dangerous. I don't know if you have noticed the most recent issue, in which someone noticed a homeopathic "remedy" for asthma, including that for children 6-12 years old, being marketed at local retailers using deceptive labeling and shelving practices; imagine that, for an acute condition which requires proper medical attention. We need to seek out cases similar to this one, and counter these harmful practices at every possible opportunity.

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