By now you've all seen the headlines about Pinterest shutting down searches for vaccination information and alternative cancer therapies. The bosses at Pinterest say they don't want misinformation to find its way into anyone's knowledge. Misinformation, of course, is the notion that I don't want my kids vaccinated.
I'm torn on this issue; hence the use of the term conundrum. On the one hand, these internet outfits are private companies and should be allowed to censor, skew, ban customers--it's their business. I take that across the board. If I start a school and I want only atheist bowlegged Vietnamese for students, I jolly well should be able to limit my clients to that. And yes, that means if I have a cake business and don't want to make cakes for LGBTQ folks, that should be my prerogative. And if I don't want to make cakes for Trump supporters, that should also be my prerogative.
At the same time, these big internet outfits are almost public. Certainly when a city offers $3 billion of tax subsidies to attract one, that's public money confiscated from citizens and makes the business look very like "you didn't build that", per Obama's declaration.
The notion that a bunch of executives are going to sit around and decide what is misinformation doesn't sit well UNLESS alternatives exist. As long as Weston A. Price Foundation can keep printing and blogging, an alternative view exists. As long as Dr. Joe Mercola keeps adding content to his website, an alternative exists.
When does an internet search engine become public and leave private? While I hate that Pinterest has decided to censor information, to be consistent I have to say it's okay. It's only not okay if I can't start a competitor to Pinterest. To my knowledge, a competitor to Google and Pinterest is doable, and the more of these shenanigans the big boys pull, the greater the likelihood of spawning competitors. A person running a business should be able to choose their customer, their product, their service, their employees--otherwise we've lost personal autonomy and responsibility.
The fewer decisions I have liberty to make, as a business owner, the less responsibility I have. The only way to judge stewardship is with decision-making. Good and bad decisions can only be made when I have the power, or responsibility, to make them. And so while I don't like the decision Pinterest has made, in the big scheme of things those executives will forever live with their decision. And if we the people demand government interference, or the courts via the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sues for a hands-off approach and wins a ruling, then two things happen.
First, it is no longer a private business. Second, business owners are denied the freedom to express their values through their business. That is a fundamentally anti-human, anti-affirmation, anti-dignity position that any liberty-minded person should find abhorrent. Do I like Pinterest's decision? No. Do I question vaccines? Yes. Do I want people to know about alternatives? Yes.
A lot of alternative avenues to information exist, and things like this simply encourage diversity within the marketplace of ideas. Isn't that the beginning of tolerance, to actually live and let live, to let people different than me express themselves the way they want to? If this is the way Pinterest wants to express itself, have at it. I'll express myself in the opposing view. To say Pinterest's censorship should be illegal or regulated is to deny diversity. A society that can't tolerate the lunatic fringe, that fears diversity, is vapid, anemic, weak and paranoid. Strong, vibrant cultures can abide weirdos who don't vaccinate or who eat liver and apricot pits for cancer treatment. How a society treats its lunatic fringe says a lot about whether it loves freedom or tyranny.
Letting a business operate within its belief structure is the first sign of tolerance. So even though I don't like what Pinterest is doing, I understand that their right to do it is fundamental to honoring human dignity and the right to choose.
Where do you go to find alternatives to the current orthodox thinking?