The Washington PostThe Washington Post

How social media 'censorship' became a front line in the culture war

By Will Oremus

09 Oct 2022 · 13 min read

Editor's Note

A fascinating long feature on the major flashpoints of social media 'censorship' and how it's making US lawmakers rethink Section 230, which provides online platforms immunity from user posts.

Early last year, amid mounting criticism that social media was spreading disinformation about covid-19, Facebook expanded an unprecedented campaign to police falsehoods by banning what it called "debunked claims" about the virus. Among them: The claim that covid was "man-made" and had leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China.

To the Biden administration and the scientific establishment, Facebook's efforts to rein in misinformation were too little, too late, given how its network had helped false and damaging claims to go viral in the first place. But others complained that the crackdowns squelched legitimate debate about the frustrating performance of public health authorities - a view that was partly vindicated when China's lack of transparency prompted prominent scientists to declare the lab-leak theory "viable" and demand further investigation.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content