This was adapted from an ANH-International article. See the original.
We no longer live in a world that values freedom of speech and freedom of expression. This makes it even harder to know how the information we do receive is being controlled by the world’s new information puppet masters. For many people, “shadowbanning”–a little-recognized, insidious form of censorship—is a concept they’ve yet to learn about, let alone recognize how it affects the way they make health-related decisions that could be, quite literally, a matter of life or death. Given that social media is one of the most important ways in which the public receives information today, we must shine a light on what shadowbanning is, how it operates, and figure out ways to take back control over the information we can receive and share.
Censorship in the shadows
Social media providers have the power to ‘punish’ anyone who publishes content that’s not in line with an ‘accepted’ narrative. At its worst, a user’s entire page or channel along with often years’ worth of content, can disappear in a nanosecond, never to be seen again. This censorship reached a new level during COVID, when those who raised questions about COVID vaccine safety/efficacy, or who alerted the public to alternative, natural strategies for treatment and prevention of the virus, were subject to a massive censorship campaign. Now that the “emergency” phase of the pandemic is over, the same censorship mechanisms can be applied to other areas of health information (more on this below).
Deplatforming is the ultimate and very overt tool for moderating content. Its existence is understandable given the potential for groups to use social media to share information that might incite extreme speech, terrorism, violence, racism, or other socially unacceptable behaviors. Other channels might be removed because they’re engaged in fraudulent activities or impersonating famous people. This is a type of ‘hard-action censorship.’
The term “shadowbanning” is still so much in the shadows it has yet to make it into dictionaries, but a Wisconsin Senate Bill 582 2021 offers a useful definition:
“Shadow ban” means to limit or eliminate the exposure of a user, or content or material posted by a user, to other users of the social media Internet site through any means, regardless of whether the action is determined by an individual or an algorithm, and regardless of whether the action is readily apparent to a user.
The practice is so shadowy in nature that service providers often try to deny this practice even exists. This leaves ‘victims’ of it wondering whether their content has been deliberately deprioritized because it doesn’t align with the social media provider’s chosen values, or if other users are genuinely not interested in it.
It’s not just a theory
The impact of shadowbans on some channels is undeniable. Some two months back, US chiropractor, keto diet, and intermittent fasting educator, Dr. Eric Berg, with 11.2 million subscribers on YouTube, noted a drastic decrease in new views and page traffic following the passage of YouTube’s new medical misinformation policy on August 15. Are keto and intermittent really so controversial that content from established experts in the field must be throttled back and made less visible to the public? Has the NIH or the WHO viewed it as a no-go area, in the same manner as with ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine? [Side note: on this point, the public was not informed that recognition of the effectiveness of either of these drugs would have compromised the ability for COVID-19 genetic vaccines to receive emergency authorization].
The blatant example of Dr. Berg stimulated us to create our Free Speech 4 Health campaign that is currently in development.
Consequences: beyond access to information
Shadowbanning doesn’t just prevent us from accessing a wide range of information that allows us to make our own informed decisions about a range of issues. It can also affect our health and quality of life if we are denied health-promoting, disease risk reducing, or life-saving information that just happens to compete with Big Pharma interests.
It seems one of the main drivers of the new system of control over medical information, which was proposed via the Nobel Prize Summit in Washington DC about which we wrote earlier this year, is to steer and nudge our decisions to benefit Big Pharma, Big Social, Big Tech, and Big Government’s agendas.
Instead of silencing the voices that we do not want to hear, we should encourage dialogue along with critical thinking. Surely a world where everyone is entitled to their own views, opinions, beliefs, and ideas that can be expressed, shared and discussed openly is better than the overt or covert suppression of free speech that typifies authoritarian or totalitarian states? More specifically, where we as society stand silent and allow a very small, exclusive group of unelected individuals, with disproportionate powers and deep vested interests, to become self-appointed decision makers over what society should determine as right and wrong, true or false?
We at ANH will continue to fight to protect free speech, especially in the area of natural health, and expose those who wish to undermine it. Stay tuned as we develop our Free Speech 4 Health campaign – and the release of our launch video in 2024!