DMCA Takedowns

Here’s a weird one. By now everyone’s heard that public health, as a field, has some problems with certain segments of society. There are those out there that don’t believe what we say. Vaccines, abortions, raw milk, heck some folks even think that all medical interventions are sinful. And these folks will do anything to try to–in their estimation–save lives.

Traditionally, it’s been very protest oriented and open. But there’s a new tactic they’ve been employing that is much more dastardly, and something we should be aware of. It’s got to do with social media “reporting” tools. The first example is from the Times of Israel and talks about Facebook:

In an attempt to silence pro-vaccine voices on Facebook, [the Australian Vaccination Network] went back over old posts and reported for harassment any comment that mentioned one person’s name specifically. Under Facebook’s algorithm, apparently, mentioning someone’s name means that if the comment is reported it can be seen as violating community standards. Which is particularly ironic, since many commentators, when replying to questions or comments from an individual, would use that individual’s name out of courtesy.

Apparently, most of the people who were reported received twelve hour bans because the Facebook algorithm doesn’t pick sides, just–boom-ban stick. And truthfully, a twelve-hour ban isn’t THAT big of a deal, just a childish annoyance (of course, as family members communicate more and more online, it could end up being a huge deal).

Much more seriously is this article from about Digital Millennium Copyright Act (here in the US) takedown notices being issued based upon a complainant not agreeing with the content:

The producers of “House of Numbers” have used a series of bogus copyright takedown notices to get Youtube to remove Powers’s videos, in which he uses clips from the documentary as part of his criticism, showing how they mislead viewers and misrepresent the facts and the evidence. It’s pure censorship: using the law to force the removal of your opponents’ views.

The real crux of the matter lies here:

The DMCA’s takedown procedures have no real penalty for abuse, so it is the perfect tool for would-be censors.

There’s nothing we can do about it. And do you really have the time in your busy public health job to fight back against this? Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution right now. But it’s definitely something to be aware of.

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