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COVID is dangerous, but what about our reactions? Censorship, Constitutional Rights and Fear

I debated for a long time whether to write an article on corona situation; it is such an inflammatory subject, as a business, I am always afraid to create enemies, or to be totally misunderstood. But is fear a good reason for holding back questions?

I do have questions. I do have opinions; some are probably different than yours. But the United States is blessed with the freedom of speech, the right to gather and protest, these are written into our constitution as human rights. Our forefathers fought many wars to enable us the rights that we enjoy and take for granted.

For understandable reasons, we have to give up on our right to gather, but I do fear that we will lose freedom of speech for good if we don’t start talking about difficult topics.

I used to work in an immunology lab. I am not debating the very seriousness of the health complications from COVID infection. The lives lost has been a great tragedy. But especially because of all the lives lost, we must honor these lost souls by making sure that we ask questions and don’t live in fear.

-But I do, I do fear to speak out….- But I do – I do want to start a conversation.

Much like many of you, I have been overwhelmed by the tragedy of the virus. I diligently run the business to keep everyone safe, shifted to online, wear my mask at the grocery store. I am doing my absolute best to keep with all the current guidelines.

When the news of the virus broke out, for many weeks my mind was in a fog while I was doing my best to adjust to the new reality. Then I got an email that shook me to my core and made me look at a bigger picture than the minutiae of everyday life.

About two weeks ago, I received an email from The Great Courses; they are an online teaching company. Beyond yoga, the Great Courses are my second biggest hobby; they make University lectures available for the public on a wide variety of topics. The professors teach at Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and so forth, bottom line, these lectures are high quality, brilliant, and the very best that our research institutions have to offer.

Since I don’t wish to make a mistake by misquoting, I will directly paste the letter that shook me to my core:

“Dear Great Courses Plus Member,

At The Great Courses, we are very proud of the educational content and learning opportunities we produce. We are extremely pleased that we were able to create three brand-new, highly informative videos in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Each of these three videos focuses on a different aspect of this pandemic and are led by a different college professor, each a renowned authority in their field.

In an effort to protect their users from false information about COVID-19, Google has flagged these videos as being in violation of their sensitivity policy. Google is currently only allowing COVID-19 apps if they are produced by official government entities and public health organizations. Google informed us they would ban The Great Courses apps if we continued to make this in-app content available. We are working with Google to ensure that they understand our content is factual, expert-led, and thoroughly vetted, so that we can remedy this misunderstanding as soon as possible.”

I will be the first one to admit that I cannot stand all the stupid, idiotic stuff that is on Facebook. It is so very tempting to ask these large mega social platforms and mega-corporations to help us sort out the manufactured junk that can mislead an election and miseducate the public.

Yes, these reactions are coming from the right intentions.

The problem with giving into censorship though, is that we are placing our “faith” in large corporations such as Facebook and Google to filter data for us that is true and good.

Receiving the above letter from the teaching company was a cautionary tale; clearly, Google has a hard time determining right from wrong, so now they are simply allowing the government to be the sole source of information.

Now that is a dangerous first step, it can build precedence, and it is incredibly hard to draw the line where we allow Google and the Government to be the sole source of information and where we don’t.

We have an information problem; we have to face it! This virus is testing our ability to balance human safety with human rights.

I am powerless, I am humbled, yes, I am afraid. But at least my eyes are wide open. We must pay attention that we don’t allow the powerful to make moves during this frightful and deadly epidemic that we will regret in the long run.

I do not know what to do… but I do want to start the conversation.


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