It’s not often that Latin phrases come to mind (mainly because I know so few), but this one seems entirely appropriate for the increasing tendency we are seeing in our major internet platform providers to decide that they, and they alone, are the arbiters of truth.
I no longer put the word vaccine in the title of any article I write or podcast I produce, simply because whenever I do, Facebook will automatically put up a warning directing people to their ‘independent’ vaccine centre. YouTube announced at the end of September that they would ban any video which makes claims about any vaccine (not just Covid) which they regard as ‘misinformation’.
In one sense this is understandable. The most ridiculous conspiracy theories are often widely circulated. So why shouldn’t the big tech giants stop the harm that they cause? Because the cure is worse than the disease. There is a way to deal with misinformation – tell the truth! Banning misinformation soon leads on to banning truth. Which is why the self-appointed guardians of truth in our post-truth age are so dangerous.
Firstly, there is the danger of having a single authoritative source, backed up by big money, which no one is permitted to question. What if that source is wrong? Facebook, YouTube and Twitter blocked articles several months ago which suggested that Covid 19 might have leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan. Their ‘independent’ fact checkers just knew that this was nonsense. Now it is considered to be the most likely source. Imagine if Facebook’s fact checkers had been around in Galileo’s day – they would have banned him for not going along with the experts!
The hubris of Big Tech thinking that they can arbitrate on every matter is astonishing. But that is not the only problem. Not only do we not have any individual or organisation which is omniscient (it may come as a shock to some young people – but Google does not know everything); we equally don’t have any organisation or individual who is pure or good. Google used to have a motto ‘Do no evil’, but that had to be dropped. The fact is that fact checkers are as biased and sinful as the rest of us.
Money, algorithms, and technology
Power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. The nearest thing to absolute power in the 21st century are the few, mostly white male, tech multibillionaires, who operate out of California (and incidentally promote the ideology that being a white male is something to be repented of – except in their case). With their money, algorithms, and technology, they have enormous power and influence. Twitter has decided for example that to ‘misgender’ someone is a serious crime deserving banning – yet every day on Twitter I read hate-filled abuse which is considered to be ‘within our community standards’. I was once banned from Twitter for suggesting that abortion was killing babies. Yet those who called me ‘some creepy, old, fat, misogynistic, religious nut who makes me want to puke’ were considered acceptable.
There is also the power of money. I was recently sent an advert for a book called Let Harry Become Sally which purported to be the other side of the story portrayed by the socially conservative political philosopher Ryan T. Anderson in When Harry Became Sally, a book that is critical of modern transgender theory. When I went to Amazon to have a look and possibly purchase – I discovered that whilst Let Harry Become Sally was for sale, the book which it was supposed to answer was banned. The ability to buy, sell or advertise will be restricted to those whose ‘facts’ fit the progressive agenda. As will the ability to fundraise.
Covid vaccines and transgender ideology are not the only criteria the ‘fact’ checkers will focus on. Soon we will find that those who question any aspect of the climate change ideology will be subject to ‘fact checking’. If they don’t go along with the prevailing orthodoxy they will be out.
Knowing how little we know
What about in the church? Surely as the ‘pillar and foundation of the truth’, we want truth? The difference for us is that we accept that all truth is God’s truth, and we are not fazed by ‘facts’ which seem to contradict any of our beliefs, because we know how limited we are in terms of knowledge, and we know that there is a bigger picture. Whereas the fact checkers of the global media corporations consider themselves as the ultimate fount of all knowledge, we have the privilege of knowing how little we know, and knowing the One who really is omniscient.
Not least we must follow the injunction of Paul in Romans 12:2: ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’
PS. As an example of this – I have just put up a video on YouTube – speaking about Romans 8. It mentions Climate Change – so YouTube immediately put up a link to that notoriously unreliable source, Wikipedia, with this claim “Climate change includes both human-induced global warming and its large-scale impacts on weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known events in Earth’s history”. This latter statement is highly questionable….however even if it were true why do YouTube feel it necessary to post this on my video? When did they become the arbiter of everything?