We need something like the EPA to curb the lies that pollute social media
In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire as a result of many years of factory pollution spewing into the river. During the same period, the Charles River was off limits as a result of pollution spewed from upland sources (the Standells, “Dirty Water”). These events, among other episodes, spawned the Environmental Protection Agency in the early 1970s. Today, both rivers are cleaned up and represent recreational resources available to the communities they serve. I think most people would agree that the birth of the EPA was pivotal in creating the natural environment we enjoy today.
Now, in 2021, we have a different kind of pollution, spewing from far-right pundits who widely spread lies related to COVID-19, the 2020 election, the Sandy Hook school shooting, and other concerns, fueling hate and distrust among the ignorant and gullible. The minimalist approach discussed by Hiawatha Bray in his Oct. 6 Tech Lab column (“Big Tech is a major problem. Big Government might make it worse,” Business), I fear, would be totally ineffective. Rather, I suggest that, just as the EPA was created to fight environmental pollution nationwide, tough laws regulating so-called free speech be enacted to control today’s selfish, irresponsible behavior. Holding Internet platforms that enable distribution of such filth accountable, as we did with factories of old, would be a good start.
Protecting public from falsehood is a legitimate function of government
In “Big Tech is a major problem. Big Government might make it worse,” Hiawatha Bray seems confused by the notion of truth. Citing statements by White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Senator Elizabeth Warren, he asserts that they wish to silence speech they find objectionable. In both cases, they were referring to false health claims, not differences of opinion. And while it may shock Bray, this is a legitimate function of government. Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration regularly decide the truth of health claims, protecting the American public from fraud and threats to their health. Does Bray believe that these agencies are making things worse?