Should we be alarmed that Zuckerberg now has more power than Murdoch and is using it to control freedom of speech?

A recent opinion piece in The Telegraph by the editor of The Spectator magazine, Andrew Nelson says Facebook is now a far bigger source of news than any newspaper, which gives Mark Zuckerberg more power than Murdoch, Hearst or Beaverbrook.

He describes how Facebook worked behind the scenes with the UK government to silence anyone critical of the government response to the pandemic.

“As the Covid era demonstrated. If the first casualty of war is truth, then the casualty of a pandemic is open debate. Did lockdown work? Was there a point in facemasks? How effective were the vaccines? What were the risks? During lockdown, the world was being plunged into the untested and unknown; debate was more important than ever. But ministers feared that debate would undermine compliance. Dissidents were portrayed as dangerous idealogues and social media firms were pressured to quash dissent,” Nelson says.

He says that he witnessed this censorship firsthand as editor of The Spectator when posts on Facebook and Instagram were shadow banned.

In the first year of the pandemic alone, Facebook removed 16 million posts about Covid and added warnings to around 160 million.

When David Davis criticised lockdown in a House of Commons speech, YouTube took his video down.

The British Medical Journal investigated the clinical trial research practices of one of the companies helping with the main Pfizer vaccine, it found the article subject to a “fact check” warning by Facebook. The BMJ says people who shared the story were warned by Facebook that they risked being penalised by having their posts moved lower in its ranking system.

When The Spectator commissioned Oxford’s Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson, to write about the evidence behind masks, Facebook labelled it “false information”.

“Why? What aspect of what they wrote was false?” Nelson asks.

He says: “Even now, Facebook refuses to explain. It is not regulated, so doesn’t need to. It has all the power, no transparency – and no accountability.

This combination makes Facebook such a tempting target for government. A quiet word with here, a tweak of the algorithm there – and ministers can control the news agenda in a way no newspaper would ever allow.”

Nelson concludes his lengthy opinion piece by saying:

“The BMJ has not shut up. Nor has The Spectator: we’re strong enough to resist the financial incentives put in place by Silicon Valley’s bots…. In theory, politicians always say they want a free and vigorous press. In practice, they find it easier to promote their objectives if dissenting voices are silenced. The irony is that this heavy-handed approach backfires. If people suspect they’re not being told the whole truth, it undermines faith in the whole process.”

What happened in Ireland during the pandemic mirrors what Nelson has highlighted in the UK.

Thanks to an investigation by Gript Media we know that a media company called Kinzen was paid €8,600 a month by the Department of Health to combat Covid-19 ‘misinformation’ online.

Kinzen, co-founded by former RTÉ journalist Mark Little and Aine Kerr, the wife of Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin received a total of €78,000 from the Department of Health for nine months of work.

The HSE, in response to a query by TD Carol Nolan said that they had lost all records of the contract with the Department of Health and Kinzen as a result of a cyber-attack. Lockdown sceptic and co-founder of M-Compass Media Anna Kavanagh’s Facebook page was among the accounts monitored by Kinzen for the special unit set up during the pandemic within the HSE.

M-Compass Media has been shadow banned by Facebook. We received a notification stating that a table with a short explanation showing CSO data on deaths 2017-2022 went “against community standards” and our account got a 7 day suspension.

Obviously this was part of an attempt to cover up the fact that the number of deaths in 2020 was on par with previous years, but rose significantly in 2021 and 2022.

Article 40:6 of the Irish constitution gives us the right to express our opinions freely:

“The State guarantees liberty for the exercise of the following rights, subject to public order and morality:

The right of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions.”

Should we be alarmed that Zuckerberg who controls Facebook and Instagram decides what opinions we may express?