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Is Facebook Anti-Science or Was That Just a Bad Mood It Was In?

The curious case of the scientist who spoke up about possible misrepresentations of research points up the problem with Big Tech social media today

University of Florida geneticist Kevin Folta recently learned the hard way about the imbalances
of Facebook censorship.

On June 19, the company flagged a 2015 post written by University of Florida geneticist Kevin Folta. What was his offense? Folta took two anti-pesticide activists to task for making misleading statements about the weed killer glyphosate. They falsely claimed the herbicide causes cancer and alleged that the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) acknowledged the causal link between the two.

Cameron English, “Social Media Censorship: Scientist Corrects Anti-GMO Silliness, Facebook Threatens To Ban Him” at American Council on Science and Health (June 22, 2021)

Folta, Cameron tells us, was informed that “his post violated Facebook’s ‘community standards’ and warned that his account may be suspended if he committed another offense.” The “offense” had happened six years ago. If anything significant had happened as a result in the meantime, no one has heard of it.

Kevin Folta

Folta wrote about the matter at Medium on June 20 of this year:

In 2015 the internet was awash in tales of the dangers of the herbicide glyphosate. Lawyers were stoking participation in a lucrative class-action suit, and the anti-biotech folks were loving every minute of it. Glyphosate is one of the herbicides that is used to control weeds in fields with biotech crops. While vilified in the media and among anti-biotech groups, scientific regulatory evaluation after scientific regulatory evaluation says it carries no special risk when used as directed.

That year an article appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, and it was wildly cited by the foes of biotech. It was not a research article, but instead an opinion by Drs. Philip Landrigan and Charles Benbrook (physician & economist) two guys that have trashed biotech for ages and are generally wrong. When they are near correct it is distortion or omission of actual data.

Kevin Folta, “Facebook: Science is Not Welcome Here?” at Medium (June 20, 2021)

Right? Wrong? In a traditional media environment, it would be considered “fair comment.” Other people can disagree in print if they want.

But Facebook is not a traditional media environment and it is unclear just what the rules are. Or who enforces them.

Last night, June 19, 2021 I get a notice from Facebook that my aging post “violates community standards”.

“Your comment goes against our Community Standards on spam

No one else can see your comment.” …

And it looks like a proper scientific statement from 2015 will have me off to Facebook Jail if the behavior continues!

Kevin Folta, “Facebook: Science is Not Welcome Here?” at Medium (June 20, 2021)

As more professionals come forward with stories of this type, it’s becoming clearer why politicians like Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Texas’s Greg Abbott are becoming concerned about the social media billionaires’ attempted monopoly on permitted information.

You may also wish to read:

The push to break up Big Tech monopolies. Facebook is “acting as an arm of the state,” says Florida’s governor (June 16, 2021)

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Is Facebook Anti-Science or Was That Just a Bad Mood It Was In?