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Amazon refuses to sell book on Covid-19 and lockdowns (axisofeasy.com)
209 points by StuntPope on June 5, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 325 comments

Official sources are continuing to mess up, and causing more destruction than this book ever could. The Lancet is about as official as it gets: https://www.thelancet.com/lancet/article/s0140673620313246

Official sources are continuing to mess up

It's a new disease. That's why it has the word "novel" in its name. People are working on it. Mistakes will always happen when dealing with unknowns, until they're known. The difference is that The Lancet will be fixed, and isn't making mistakes maliciously.

causing more destruction than this book ever could

Not provable hyperbole.

It is ridiculous to assume that one group making mistakes is always operating in good faith, while another group making mistakes is always operating in bad faith. It is even more ridiculous to censor one group because of this assumption.

No one is expecting perfection, as you say its a novel virus. But the implication is also that official sources cannot be trusted to the point where they get to censor the discussion around the virus. It would be wrong to do that even if they were competent, which they are not.

I eagerly await the retractions from the mainstream media outlets who had wall-to-wall coverage of this debunked study.

A much better study came out the same day as the retraction saying pretty much the same thing, so don’t hold your breath.

So reporting based on studies shouldn't be retracted based on faulty data as long as there's a brand new study which has not been vetted to the same standard as the first study which says "pretty much the same thing"?

That kind of viewpoint allows the media to peddle lies 24/7 and never be held accountable for them. Not that it'd stop them anyway, mainstream media is built upon lies (whether outright fabrications or lying by omission).

Studies are not facts. They are a mechanism by which decisions can be guided. That's why on all major issues there are hundreds of peer-reviewed studies on either side saying opposite things.


HN should really get rid of downvotes.

They only play one role: To alter how others perceive a post

I am unfortunately immediately biased against a post that is greyed out. Greyed posts are increasingly just a different political view rather than an objectively wrong statement.

If a post is truly problematic, there is a flag option.

Let the cream rise to the top, but don't tell people how to think.

having seen to many unreasonable downvotes, i have the opposite reaction. when i see a gray post i tend to expect the downvotes to be unreasonable. frequently it is something that i don't agree with but feel is a comment made in good faith that doesn't deserve to be downvoted. rarely it is something unacceptable that deserved its downvotes.

(like this comment is made in good faith but off topic...)

My comment was definitely off topic, but the message never gets traction when it's on its own.

The only effect of downvotes is that I have to highlight text to be able to read it. I'm not sure what the point of the system is.

I tend to agree. If we're going to go meta, use downvotes as a sorting mechanism so the stuff the community thinks is most valuable winds up at the top, but remove the greying.

Agreed. I think downvoting is an ugly thing. Most of the time, low stakes condemnation is a cowardly overreaction. That being said, as a sorting mechanism, it's not much worse than an upvote

It looks like the rejection email was from Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). So Amazon isn't refusing to sell the book, just refusing to publish it, from my understanding. That seems like a much less significant issue if that is the case - there are lots of alternative publishers to Amazon, so it is less concerning if they have more strict standards, since you could just go through another publisher and sell on Amazon through them.

After a half hour long conversation with my neighbor last week of him trying to convince me that Bill Gates is behind coronavirus, please, for the love of our future, continue banning information that is blatantly put up on a bad faith basis.

It's exhausting to see my mom and dad succumb to a new conspiracy every other day. I don't see how else we can curb this other than for the tech companies to start aggressively moderating, just like how HN is moderated.

Wow...just wow. The only way to deal with people having bad ideas is censorship? Seriously?

What about improving education, building functional (and trusted) institutions, and having more independent (non-profit driven) media?

It really bothers me that there is a group of people begging for corporate overloads to control and think for the population. Its literally the opposite of everything this country stands for.

> What about improving education, building functional (and trusted) institutions, and having more independent (non-profit driven) media?

They do not work, because the time and cost to create and widely disseminate falsehoods is much less than the time and cost to refute those falsehoods.

See "Firehose of falsehood" [1], which is an apt name for what happens now thanks to the internet and social media greatly lowering the barriers to getting information widely distributed.

As RAND researchers put it, "Don't expect to counter the firehose of falsehood with the squirt gun of truth."

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firehose_of_falsehood

> They do not work, because the time and cost to create and widely disseminate falsehoods is much less than the time and cost to refute those falsehoods.

It's not about countering falsehoods, it's about giving people the tools to think critically and not be duped by falsehoods in the first place.

Don't they already have those tools readily available?

People don't believe QAnon, or that Bill Gates created COVID-19 as part of his secret plan to implant chips in everybody, or that 5G towers caused COVID-19, or that the earth is flat, etc., because they do not have access to the tools to find and critically evaluate the refutations of those idiotic beliefs.

All the necessary tools are readily available on the internet. But using them takes more effort than they want to put in. And if they do put in the effort to think critically about something they saw on social media, there are dozens more to take its place.

The falsehoods can be designed to be entertaining and to appeal to the fears and prejudices of their targets. This makes it easy for someone to get into it because they can start out just for the entertainment. They aren't going to seek out opposing views and critical evaluate them at that point because it is just entertainment. Somewhere along the line, it changes from being just entertainment to something they actually believe in.

What about the people that don't care about critical thinking? Where an idea has come from (or the person advocating for it) often seems far more important than whether it's reasonable or true.

There is a societal change that needs to take place to fix that. Not caring about truth is a sign that a person has given up, it feels like a lot of people have given up.

Exactly. I see a lot of posts refuting the garbage from the too post, and it does nothing. It’s like watching a whole community try to nail jello to a telephone pole.

Upvoted for the imagery. :)

I believe Bill Clinton is responsible for the original - "nailing jello to a wall"

Interesting. The guy I lifted it from will probably be rather embarrassed to be quoting Clinton. <tents fingers. laughs evilly.>

> What about improving education, building functional (and trusted) institutions, and having more independent (non-profit driven) media?

What would education do except promote good ideas and reject bad ideas? What would trusted institutions do except promote good ideas and reject bad ideas? What would independent media do to improve things except promote good ideas and reject bad ideas?

"What about improving education, building functional (and trusted) institutions, and having more independent (non-profit driven) media?"

Oh, my god! You want someone telling us how to think, only allowing the right groups to provide information, and having anyone else under the thumb of some financial interest?

What about improving education

You can't educate people out of that kind of stupidity.

I don't know what the answer is, but that's not it.

I agree with you that it’s tiring, but censorship is not an option. Just imagine the “official” sources being propaganda and the truth being censored. Official sources are already spreading conspiracy theories about COVID right now (made in a lab, etc). This sword has two edges. The only thing that helps is to teach people to detect false information, ie education.

How do you know that the book in question was putting up misinformation on a bad faith basis?

You don't, and you won't, because the decision has been made for you.

You honestly think there is no legitimate information to be added to the equation from outside official sources? And that official sources, are, by definition right about everything?

I fear that will only mitigate the spread, not curb the belief in it, unfortunately. If anything so many conspiracy theories seem massively fueled even today by any attempts to silence.

I fear something along the lines of education and critical thinking is the only way to deal with this problem. I just don't know how to get there :(

> I fear

thats seems to be the root of the problem. we're a fear driven economy now. That's why conspiracy theories are rampant, as well as actual conspiracies.

I liked the quote from Apocalypto:

> Fear. Deep rotting fear. They were infected by it. Did you see? Fear is a sickness. It will crawl into the soul of anyone who engages it. It has tainted your peace already. I did not raise you to see you live with fear. Strike it from your heart. Do not bring it into our village.

Nothing generates fear and distrust like censorship.

Nah, plenty of other things do too.

I agree with the sentiment that we shouldn’t propagate disinformation as much as the next guy, but this is a strawman. Nowhere in the book does it say anything about Bill Gates behind covid, or any similarly ludicrous conspiracies. The book mentioned appears to be reasonable and fact based.

> fact based

Does it represent both sides of the controversy equally or is it only nitpicked facts?

When did we forfeit our ability to think critically and judge sources on our own?

In the minds of the political elites, when Trump won the 2016 election.

I hate the guy as much as anyone. My wife was crying. It was a shock.

The DNC could have examined why they lost the key swing states by the thin margins they did in a deep, meaningful way. But that would have required acknowledging mistakes made by their highly paid political consultants and their own power brokers. But who wants to be the person to admit they screwed up and lost to a tangerine/chicken strip/cheetoh?

"Nah, let's just blame the Russians. They hacked our emails, they put out ridiculous lies on social media..... yeah, that's it.... the Russians and dumb morons who believed them."

At that moment, the party that has always defended civil liberties, always fought censorship by the right wing theocrats, suddenly decided it was just too dangerous to have uncensored speech. They pointed the finger at Twitter and Facebook, and threatened them. They whipped up the tech employees, making them feel responsible for the tangerine, when it was their own horror show of a primary process that doomed them.

What's really weird is that if you think about it, the people who they think need curated, safe, censored information are the people who voted for Obama in 2012, but voted for Trump in 2016, or stayed home. They think their own voters in 2012 are too dumb to weed out misinformation themselves.

Do you currently think COVID-19 is a problem outside NYC?

It's a problem. One that requires a lockdown? Doubtful.

We will find out soon, since these protests were vastly larger than the ones against the lockdown (you remember how the media talked about how dangerous those ones were due to covid19, but immediately ignored that when the protest was something that they personally support). Yeah, the virus doesn't care whether your protest is journalist approved.

I know you know that, and I'm wondering if you think the protests are going to cause a large spike in infections?

98% of new cases in the US yesterday were outside of the five boroughs of NYC.[1&4] Right now, most of NY is reopening[2]. In the meantime, California and Texas are seeing significantly more daily new cases than NY state; CA more than double[3] Internationally, Brazil[1] has started regularly producing daily new case counts that are ~50% more than the US (Brazil is a smaller country that so far has had fewer cases and deaths).

I don't expect anyone will be able to definitively identify the effect of protests in the context of imminent or continuing reopening of much of the country.

[1] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

[2] https://forward.ny.gov/

[3] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

[4] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/usa/new-york/

What's the positive cases per test rate? I'm assuming that is going up, which is bad.

The one admittedly lagging indicator that I'm watching is hospitalized cases.

So far that's ok, and ideally you could possibly have an increase in positive cases throughout a population without more hospitalizations if high risk people isolate themselves. But yeah, hope it doesn't go sideways.

The site I posted indicates that there are almost 20 tests in the US for every new case, while there was only one test for every three cases in Brazil. Probably the latter ratio is not very representative without averaging over a longer period of time. However, it seems clear from the total test counts that Brazil has had more than an order of magnitude fewer tests per capita than in the US, and I am reasonably certain that the numbers indicate they are overwhelmed and the reported cases are the ones that they cannot attribute to anything else, so probably undercounted.

Here's something to think about - total cases for the world were up about 2% yesterday. US cases were up a little over 20K. If US cases were increasing at the average rate of the whole world, it would have been closer to 40K. Similar story in Europe, but more so; there more than half of the new cases are in Russia. So considering Western Europe, the epidemic has been greatly reduced and is growing elsewhere.

What's happening very quickly is that Asia and South America are now having a disproportionate amount of the new cases, even with China, Japan and S. Korea reporting almost none. And the spread is happening in countries where the testing capacity is relatively low.

If the lockdowns had had no effect, I can't see how to explain the dramatic shift over the last month in where the new cases are.

The general reaction of authorities to the epidemic seems to me very similar to an immune reaction. You have a strong initial reaction to an infection, and then it moderates. Earlier is better, but either too much or too little can kill you. Once it is slowed, you can go back to a relatively normal metabolism.


Comments made days ago in other threads were suddenly downvoted by people who clicked on my name and decided to downvote every comment I had made based off of this one note that states the same thing that folks like Matt Taibbi have been saying.

And yes, I think it helps Trump. I think the rioting will help him, and the extreme viewpoint of defunding police that BLM is pushing will help him.

If I see Biden get above 50%, I will rest easier, but not seeing it.

Which controversy? Why are both sides worthy of equal representation?

The lockdown controversy. And I was asking a question, not saying it needed to be that way.

Are you saying we should censor information if it only represents one perspective?

No. That's not what I’m saying at all.

I understand where you’re coming from but it still seems dangerous. There will come a point when we will not be allowed to discuss inconvenient facts or debate controversial and sensitive topics (some would argue we are already there), and the definition of what fits into that bucket will shift. A vocal enough contingent just has to declare something a “bad faith idea” and you’re done.

What’s worse is the new trend of digging up something you said/did that was of little societal impact at the time, but is now unforgivably offensive, and society punishing you retroactively under the new rules.

You spoke with your neighbor about this for a half hour and it sounds to me like he was unable to convince you that this was true. It seems like somehow you're immune to the spread of this information. Perhaps it's just the rubes that need to be protected from the bad information? Maybe there's some kind of gullibility test we could administer and if you fail you have to get your information filtered but if you pass you can read anything you want.

I never get this. Why does Bill Gates need to inject people to track them when we're all carrying cell phones which provide far more data including much more refined location data than you could get will an implant.

Just saying, if you're going to have a conspiracy, there's a much better one to use as your basis.

it is not tracking, the conspiracy theory it is supposed to be a 'mark of the beast' that designates someone is part of the new world order founded by the antichrist

the actual technology is a a sub skin electronic ink that is implanted during vaccination that can be read with a cell phone, used to track vaccinations in less developed countries

Funny that people are downvoting it, it’s completely accurate. A lot of people believe this. I would have been skeptical if I hadn’t been told that directly by a true believer. A lot of right-leaning people still believe the DNC had a pedo operation in that pizza joint, and the Epstein stuff only convinces them even further.

One of the primary functions of the mark of the beast is that Noone without it will be able to buy or sell. Assuming you believe in the Bible, it's pretty easy to see how the vaccine will put people in the situation that they can only participate in the economy if they have it. It honestly troubles me how little some of the people here is willing to look at the other side to even try to see where they're coming from.

For the record I consider myself an atheist and don't believe in the vaccine being the mark, but sure continue to downvote the reasons people believe what they do and act like it's all just random nonsense with no reason behind it, that's worked out great politically so far.

Yes, obviously it's not random nonsense with no reason behind it. Every conspiracy theory is rationalized by the people who believe it, with a framework of logic that makes sense to them, and Christians have been trying to decipher the Book of Revelations ever since it was canonized, breeding such conspiracy theories for a thousand years or more. I know some who adamantly believe the locusts in Revelations refer to Apache attack helicopters, for instance. Every war might be Armageddon, every plague might be a sign of the end times, every Pope and world leader might be the Antichrist. The paredolia, tea-leaf reading and phantom dot-connecting is as endless as it is futile.

The Mark of the Beast has been interpreted to refer to social security numbers, license plate numbers, credit card numbers, dollar bill serial numbers, bar codes, RFID codes, and any number of numbers throughout history. This is just the latest paranoid fixation of the Christian right attempting to justify their constant fear of the future. Tomorrow, when it turns out Bill Gates wasn't the antichrist all along, they'll find another number to obsess over.

It's still nonsense, even when the context is understood, and it doesn't deserve to be taken seriously, or treated with respect.

traditionally these events are considered archetypes as well as historical realities, just as jesus is supposedly prefigured in various ways in the old testament

so these could be said to be prefigurations of the end time pattern, as in satan keeps trying various ways and keeps getting defeated, which would in their mind lend credence to constant concern about these things

Making information unavailable justifies radical conspiracy theories and makes it harder to find trustworthy sources.

It also amplifies the content: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect

Why does he think bill gates is behind COVID? That's a new one I have not seen yet.

I believe the story goes that Bill Gates created COVID-19 to force people to accept microchip implants that will then be used to control their minds.

I heard it was to track them. No body tell them about cell phones...

Most of what I've seen follows this general thinking (note, I don't agree with it, just what I've seen):

1) Bill Gates was convicted of monopolistic practices while he was running a global company attempting to seize power.

2) Almost immediately after this conviction, he suddenly becomes philanthropic and donates most of his wealth to a non-profit that he's in control of.

3) This non-profit runs social experiments throughout the world, including mass vaccination programs

4) He has a motivation (the exact nature of which is fuzzy in the right wing stuff I've seen) to have everyone vaccinated. (this is where some folks talk about microchips, others talk about financial motivations).

5) He is partners with George Soros, working together for a globalist agenda. According to the theory, their aim is to end nationalism and replace it with a unified earth type structure.

So where does Soros going after Zuckerberg fit into this?

Fascinating. We need to write a book about it... right..

Some loony hard right sites are spreading the idea that Bill Gates is using COVID to make people get a vaccine that's really just an excuse to microchip people to track them. I wish I was kidding. And they're likely sharing this conspiracy theory on their mobile phones.

It's very popular right wing conspiracy.

Not sure why you’re being downvoted, this is exactly right.


Do you have a source on that?

Lots of people are looking for any story they can find to make all this make sense. The stories they're hearing don't make sense and keep changing, too. I don't think doubling down on the parochial "we'll tell you what to think, you can trust us" is going to win back their trust or make them any more willing to embrace the complexities and uncertainties they face. It'll definitely confirm that there's "seekrits they're not being told", however.

What stories don't make sense? A novel coronavirus caught fire in China, spread internationally, killed a lot of people, and some gov'ts fumbled the response and some didn't.

"some gov'ts fumbled the response and some didn't"

Who decided this is over and in the past tense? That's what troubling me, personally. I feel there's a point at which people are going to look down and realize we've run off a cliff into midair. We may not be in danger of having the hospitals overrun, so it could be ok, but it makes me nervous. If reopening goes well in the US and western Europe, what about the countries where the epidemic is spreading now at an ever increasing rate?

Daily new cases have been trending up for roughly a month, and daily new deaths have been declining, but may be turning a corner right now.

I understand your sentiment but this isn't going to work. You cannot possibly curate the worlds information to the set you approve of as safe for other people. You will only drive this stuff underground and make people justifiably angry and suspicious about your motives. Much better to build up trust by being honest, reasonable and listening to people without patronizing. That still will not work 100% but it will work better than this patronizing nonsense.

If this book is a conspiracy theory then Standford's entire Hoover Institution is also. https://www.youtube.com/user/HooverInstitution/videos

That has been the most reasoned, data driven debates I have found since this all started and the narratives are basically nothing like the consensus in mass media.

you have to be careful for what you wish for. get a book or two about soviet russia or nazi germany and learn how they 'loved their future' and baned and burned books. and what come out of it.

The necessity fo filter out bullshit, along with that of talking to other people or procure sustenance, is an integral part of the human condition.

So you blame the stupidity of your parents and others who believe idiotic conspiracy theories on platforms not banning things? How about we expect people to be minimally educated (because that is all it takes to figure out the difference) and have critical thinking so they can decide? Some of the things the CDC and WHO have put out should have been banned by this logic. Now we're supposed to trust Jeff Bezos and his crew to be the arbiters of truth? That's beyond absurd.

Not only behind Corona virus but also the vaccine implants microchips to track you.

The real story is not that a few nut jobs believe it - a huge chunk of the population actually believes it. https://news.yahoo.com/new-yahoo-news-you-gov-poll-shows-cor...

The real story is that you think this is a remotely valid poll.

YouGov is a joke. Massive selection bias in their polling.


> Currently, there is some kind of information you and I are both succumbing to coming from "legitimate" sources that you, me, and the authorities trust. The Iraq WMD fiasco was being reported by the New York Times.

It's not accuracy that makes a source legitimate. Legitimate sources will publish misinformation.

The differences between legitimate and illegitimate sources are that (1) legitimate sources make a considerable effort to not publish misinformation, (2) legitimate sources publish corrections and retractions when they find out that they have published misinformation, and (3) legitimate sources make sure to label opinion pieces as such.

Can you give me a list of few legitimate sources out of mainstream media?

I'm assuming US.

For newspapers Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post would be some examples. Really, most on this list [1] are going to be fine.

For radio, NPR.

For TV, the nightly news broadcasts of PBS and the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS).

I'd be cautious about the cable news networks, like CNN and FOX. Filling a 24/7 schedule with news is hard without getting mind numbingly repetitive, filling time with a lot of fluff, having a lot of opinion shows, or having other random stuff.

There is an interesting chart here [2] that has a plot of many news sources, with the horizontal axis being left/right bias, and the vertical axis being overall source reliability.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Pulitzer_Prize-winnin...

[2] https://www.adfontesmedia.com/interactive-media-bias-chart/?...

Maybe you need to reconsider the way your communicate with your parents if you can't convince them, and your best alternative is to censor everything out there.

This book is absolutely, by no means, a “bad faith” effort. That accusation is extremely unfair and destructive.

This isn't a conspiracy theory. It's a compilation of data that hasn't been widely reported.

The guy doesn't have a great record of being trustworthy. See https://www.drugpolicy.org/resource/letter-scholars-and-clin... -- a letter signed by over 100 scholars and researchers strongly condemning his previous book which says that marijuana is the culprit behind violence

The arguments against his book in that post are not particularly damning. More like par-for-the-course for pop science.

And it's not like academia is immune to this. Selection bias? Claims of causation? I bet half of the researchers on this list could have their work criticized in a similar manner.

>"marijuana makes young black people mentally ill and violent."

Interesting framing of his quoted passage. He doesn't say it makes "black people" mentally ill and violent, he says it makes all people mentally ill and violent. Whether or not that's true (I don't believe it is), that's a bad faith interpretation of his argument.

That linked article is a really great example of how not to credibly criticize someone's work. There's a ton of straw man argument going on in there.

And fortunately those researchers are free to present their arguments to argue against his.

That's an interesting article. I think I'd like to take a look first hand. Perhaps I'll buy some of his books so I can decide for myself. Where are they available?

And that's the rub.

I am all for private businesses' right to censor their platforms as they please. But let's consider why they do so. Amazon and others aren't banning "covid dissidents" because they are worried about people's health nor is it because of some evil conspiracy. The reason is simple and obvious: because they've determined it to be the best course of action PR-wise. Or in other words, it's because what the public wants.

And that is where it stars to rub me very, very wrong way. Just think about it. Not only the average Joe knows exactly how this totally novel global problem with a shit ton of unknown variables should be handled (that's par the course). But he's so certain of his knowledge that he wants anyone trying to voice a different opinion to get the treatment that was previously reserved only for obvious dangerous crazies like the nazis. To me this is the empirical proof that the slippery slope does exist, unfolding before our eyes.

And how average Joes form opinions on complex subjects? They don't.

Opinions are hammered into general public by a limited number of major media platforms or independent influences.

There is this logical error that comes with elitism. People are generally simple, therefore must have been manipulated by a much smarter "center".

But what if opinions on complex subjects are instead formed as an emergent phenomena of interactions of many humans?

It reminds me of Cartesian theatre, the idea that there has to be a central place in the brain where "real decisions are made".

The book is back on amazon as of now https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B089P216NP/

I wonder if this will be noted on the easy blog or on hacker news. It seems that people are too caught up being outraged to notice. Comments made here three hours ago about the book now being available on Amazon are buried under piles of diatribes. Let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good sanctimonious rant.

While I'm not an advocate of piles of diatribes, I think Amazon's ability and desire to censor is a topic still worthy of discussion. If Amazon is in the habit of censoring things it doesn't like unless it gets a lot of bad PR about it, that's a problem.

Amazon’s ban is a problem even if they reversed it due to publicity. It means that this is going on even when you don’t hear about it.

Does stating that they will not offer for sale amount to a ban?

I wonder if Amazon would have reversed their original decision on more detailed review, without the publicity you speak of. Are we sure that the blog post or this discourse are the causes that effected the book being offered for sale in the end?

I would have read the blog post and HN comments with less skepticism if there was evidence that Amazon had continued to refuse to sell the book after multiple submissions and signs of human / managerial interaction in the process on their part.

AxisOfEasy blog updated

He only got it back because Elon Musk got involved and contacted Bezos directly. Check out Alex Bere son Twitter.

He gets my money.

> Alex Berenson

Of course..

> and he’s even a Twitter blue check.

This line made me laugh. As if a Twitter blue check means anything at all. Even used “even”.

Regarding the “censorship”, I’m not sure why anyone thinks Amazon as a publisher should just publish anything. They are not even close to being a monopoly and there are a million other channels to publish.

Big Streisand effect on this one, I followed him in the past and noticed his Twitter has exploded in followers/attention since Amazon censored his book.

I decided to read the book to see why it was so threatening and worthy of Amazon crossing into such a dangerous line into censorship. And it was mostly a milquetoast glorified blog post.

I also watched that stupid Plandemic video, which I never would have otherwise, when I heard Google was deleting it from peoples private data backups.

Getting banned like this is a great way to get promotion.

Top of the linked article says:

> the bootlickers on Hackernews

I skimmed and found a lot of inflammatory phrasing, so that was the end of it for me.

I was referring to the book author: https://twitter.com/AlexBerenson/status/1268529570480824320

I didn't read the post in question since I knew the gist already.

Ah, apologies :(

Declining to sell a book in a store isn’t “censorship”. The author could easily host the book on their own website. If the government forces them to take it down, then it’s censorship.

This is technically incorrect. You might argue that censorship is commonly understood to mean specifically government censorship. But censorship by itself does not have to refer to the actions of the state.

You have it completely backwards :)

It's is technically correct. Legally and conceptually censorship is defined only as censorship done by the government.

Censorship is commonly understood to mean any kind of censoring or removing of content.

Google Dictionary agrees with you, but Merriam-Webster, Brittanica and Wikipedia disagree.

Even the Google dictionary result doesn't say it's exclusive to governmental action

I'm not selling that book either. Am I censoring it too?

I don't believe the definition applies to individuals.

yea but this argument has been done to death a million times. There were a million threads about facebook just this week.

If you are worried about a private company "censoring" your speech, you should take this as a sign that you've allowed said company to get far too big. Restricting private speech by increasing the reach of government to limit it will only backfire in the end if your goal is freedom of speech.

The right approach for free speech is smaller companies AND smaller government.

> If you are worried about a private company "censoring" your speech, you should take this as a sign that you've allowed said company to get far too big.

That makes sense, but what if many private companies agree to censor something? It doesn't have to be a shady deal in a smoke filled room, maybe just everyone depends on advertisers, and advertisers don't want to be associated with some message.

I think the right way is creating and popularizing spaces for speech that don't lend themselves to censorship, but somehow mitigate the problems of non-censorship, such as astroturfing. The internet is a wonderful foundation for such spaces, we're very lucky, but there's a lot of work to do.

I wonder why he hasn't used his freedom of speech to make the text of his pamphlet freely available on his own website, instead of depending on a publisher to carry it.

Granted, it would be harder to monetize this speech, that way. He'd have to find a payment provider, take payments directly, et cetera. But I don't see why those ancillaries should detract from upholding a principle that clearly means so much to him.

He's not asking a lot of money for it, and he put in the work. People still gotta eat man. Maybe not this guy with his backing and work and I'm sure he has plenty of money, but to answer your point, other people who have been censored have released their materials for free. Take for example the book "Nobody Died at Sandyhook"

I mean, that guy ended up getting paid -$450,000, so... https://kutv.com/news/nation-world/nobody-died-at-sandy-hook...

From what I'm reading, I haven't purchased it, seems to be the length of an article or blog post. Seems like selling a "chapter" of a "book".

Just a note that the book in question has been re-published: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B089P216NP/

Most things we consider “true” today were considered “false” right before they became “true”.

We’re just not great at being selective when discarding things, so it’s best to keep them around.

I do find it odd, looking back at the short history of the world dealing with covid, that there has been no (that I'm aware of) institutional strategy in combating a "novel" virus with a "novel" therapy (ie the off-label use of existing pharmaceuticals) and the MSM is and has been poised to attack that strategy and the small-scale, uncoordinated efforts when they discover them happening.

If Covid-19 were a movie, the hero would have stumbled across a clever combination of generic drugs that would turn the tide of global death. But here in reality, any such efforts are vilified and attacked for no coherent (but seemingly organized) reason.

First they came for controversial right wing views... then they came for Covid “disinformation”...

Putting the joke aside, I really think we are starting to see that once this door opens, it will only get worse. The pressure will increase to ban books and it will happen, whether or not it’s controversial or disinformation or whatever.

I can only hope this will be enough of a market opportunity that someone else can build a business to rival things like amazon.

That will be terribly difficult given that payment processors are also on this ideological censorship train. I think there might be a valid argument as to a single seller refusing to sell something, but once you get three credit card companies towing that line, that's pretty much unavoidable unless you go to crypto (which eliminates most customers).

We are living in an age where you can soon write a service running in the cloud that pulls text snippets from your favorite conspiracy theorists blogs, compiles them into books with sensationalist titles and automatically and constantly submits them to Amazon for publication to have unsuspecting buyers succumb to the resp. promoted world view.

Essentially what people are already doing with public domain works or Wikipedia articles only with the intent of disinformation rather than profit (or at least both).

Then Amazon will need more sophisticated tools to detect and filter those out ... you see where this is going.

yeah once they decided to remove something from their platform on their own accord the implication is they endorse everything remaining.

I can buy Metallica's Kill'em All album and art. Amazon endorses violence.

I can also buy various guides and howto's for unconventional warfare. Amazon endorses terrorism.

There's a lot of issues at play here- what constitutes censorship, the monopolistic power of big tech platforms, how to address misinformation. I suspect the root cause is that we live in an extremely segmented information society now, modern life is incredibly complex and self-filtered information bubbles very easy to fall into. Echoing some of the comments, the Streisand effect will only disseminate misinfo and disinfo further, and create a martyr effect that self-defeatingly amplifies the power of the content being suppressed.* But there's really no other good options either. We live in an age where one set of facts will only be countered by a different set of opposing facts, a different list of footnotes and sources, all tailored for that opposite opinion. No one really has time to check all of the links anymore. So much of society simply rests on blind faith on one's own set of experts and gurus. The polarized environment renders your opposite experts into dupes, liars, or agents of shadowy powers, worthy of the worst insults. "Education" doesn't really help fight misconception or conspiracy theories because any inconvenient fact is easily rejected as propaganda by your enemies.

* Though not in all cases. In some cases de-platforming has been very effective https://mashable.com/article/milo-yiannopoulos-deplatforming...

How does this apply to tech specifically? Amidst this climate of post-truth and truthiness, the big tech platforms have become de facto gatekeepers, guardians of public truth. Something they neither are capable of being, nor should they be. In a healthy civilization, the government, businesses, and civil society should all have roles to play in promoting harmony and fostering understanding. But we've somehow let the infection of division and ignorance take root, so here we are.

On the flip side, something I was thinking about regarding the recent Facebook/Twitter controversies and policing or not policing the president's speech: how is it really different from '90s AOL chat rooms or '00s vBulletin message boards having TOS that forbid certain types of inflammatory, hateful, or otherwise objectionable content? Why was everyone fine with those supposedly "anti-free speech" or "unconstitutional" policies in past decades? Was it simply a matter of scale? Those platforms and online communities were smaller so fewer people got mad about them? Because for a long time, people posting on the internet simply accepted that there is no absolute free speech anywhere, even if they hated the mods.

This use of the verb 'spike' does not conform to any definition I found in the dictionary. Is it commonly used this way?

Yes. It's very common, especially in publishing and media circles. It's also in the dictionary that's built-in to macOS.

There’s a difference between censorship and a book publisher deciding they don’t want to publish or sell a book.

This appears to be a case of the later. He’s free to print and distribute his book, but no private company is under any obligation to help him in that endeavor.

Once they publisher reaches near monopoly status this is censorship.

What? I'd be shocked if Amazon even published a majority of books sold. There is no way they are monopoly or even close. I looked and couldn't find reliable stats on it. Does anyone else have any?

A majority by number of unique titles, or by sales volume? I would not be surprised to see Amazon publishing a very large fraction of 'long-tail' (almost self-published) books, and these likely make up a large fraction of all titles published.

What about eBooks?

They don’t have a monopoly on book publishing though. Look at how many book publishers there are out there.

Amazon is insignificant as a book publisher. They could have a near monopoly on selling books, but even that is unlikely.

Not claiming that a legal challenge has merit, but in the author's words:

> I may just make it available for download and people can contribute if they like BUT THAT IS NOT THE POINT. Amazon is by far the largest channel for book sales worldwide. The people who need to see this the most will not.

Amazon is still selling Mein Kampf, they don't seem to care about it as long as it brings profit?

Mein Kampf is an important document for understanding one of the most significant and tragic events in history. Only the truly ignorant would try to remove it.

Hardly that simple. Germany had banned publication until 2015.

Notably not under German law against extremist propaganda, but through copyright law, also affecting some international printings of it. Which explains the date of 2015: 70 years after the death of the author.

Unedited/-commented versions were put on the index later (which e.g. forbids advertising them in Germany, selling to minors, ...)

While I haven't read either, I expect that Mein Kampf has more historical value than the COVID book in question.

Books about about Covid-19, whether truths or conspiracy theories, can be reasonably expected to bring in profit.

> There’s a difference between censorship and a book publisher deciding they don’t want to publish or sell a book.

If the publisher is actually pressured by the government, then that is a sneaky form of censorship masquerading as the choice made by a private-sector enterprise.

In a system that falls short of pure, unbridled capitalism, there is no such thing as a purely private-sector decision.

Corporations have to comply to regulations and rules, and those can perpetrate censorship.

You can always just move to another country. Censorship is a complete myth.

Right except no, you cannot always just move to another country, either. Sometimes you get shot in the back climbing a barbed-wire fence.

> So as a libertarian, it pains me to say, I would encourage and welcome anti-trust investigations into big tech platforms such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Apple.

What you mean to say is you’re not a libertarian.

You have a relationship with Amazon which previously consisted of voluntary, mutually beneficial exchanges. Amazon determined the exchanges were no longer beneficial and elected to stop. You wanted to continue, and so you invite the full might of government to threaten to destroy Amazon (but not actually destroy them cause then you wouldn’t get what you want.) You pull in Facebook and Google and try to make a larger argument to obfuscate the fact that you are a very unprincipled libertarian.

If they start censoring dinosaur porn, then I'll really be pissed.

amazon has already been banning anti vax books for a little while

I honestly can't see the censorship happening here; I can only see the book has been rejected for self-publishing on KDP and an author with a clear political agenda is using this thing, negligible per-se, to push it even further.

For example, on his twitter feed he writes in response to another user with the nickname "Libraries Aren't Neutral": "Do you think non-leftist patrons have a place on your library?".

This is to me the hallmark of a person in bad faith that is using a minor nuisance (just use another publisher!) to push ideas to a group of persons that will stop to first impressions and shout censorship.

The remark on "libraries not neutral = libraries leftist" is also terrible:

- even if a leftist librarian decides not to sell your book, you have all right-wing librarians that will sell you, so why the fuss?

- it creates the strange association "left = lockdown : right = freedom"; this ignores lots of things, like how Sweden, a social democracy often the target of attacks from this political side, had pretty good results with no lockdown; or how in many countries, after initial disagreements, both political parts convened on the necessity of the lockdown because the situation granted it, but they were also quick to raise it when possible.

The one thing I have no respect for is the fact that these persons screaming censorship ignore that serious debate around lockdown measures is effectively happening, far from their cospirationist pamphlets; it's a measure with an heavy toll on economics and physical an emotional well-being of the population, and everyone would hate to enforce it again; however, at least here in Italy, we have the feeling things would have gotten terribly dire were it not for the 2 months of lock-down; we had now 30 days of reopenings, with only a few cautions like using masks in closed spaces, and the situation seems mostly in control.

Of course it's only a feeling: at the moment nobody I know of has proof that the lockdown was the only way to stop contagion; but I can't avoid being extremely skeptical of the raising movement of people absolutely certain that lockdown is a no-go in every circumstance, because I have absolutely no idea how they got the data and the insight to come to this conclusion so quickly when many are still counting bodies.

Never thought we'd see wide support for book restriction or censorship again. Are people not reading history or considering the second order effects? Heck, you don't even have to go back that far. Just look how badly "official sources" handled Covid-19.

For example, remember what the official word was, even despite being a self-contradiction: masks don't work, but save them for health workers. You may say that's a noble lie, but it destroys credibility and covers for the fact officials failed to prepare for the known threat of pandemics.

> Remember what the official word was for all too long: masks don't work, but save them for health workers.

Who said masks don't work? What I recall people saying is:

* most masks provide marginal protection to the wearer

* the masks that provide effective protection should be saved for those in situations where they need them (and can be knowledgeably used)

* most people probably don't need those masks

There's a worthwhile criticism in noting some seem to have taken longer to get on board with the idea that marginally effective masks (a) reduce spread and (b) are a low-cost intervention, but people who are going to make that criticism probably should doing it from a standpoint where they're asking themselves why they flattened the above multi-point conception into "masks don't work."

And if this is all about using the initial misunderstanding as a jumping off point to the difficulty of getting non-trivial information out to the public, that actually underscores the importance of curation.

> Does no one read history or think about second order effects?

Are you suggesting that this is the milestone of history where someone decided not to publish or distribute material because they thought it was irresponsible?

Because I'd bet that's happened before, even inside societies that cultivate robust discourse. Maybe even a lot.

Who is thinking about the second order effects of a no-responsibility no-curation approach?

The CDC and WHO both at various times recommended against the general public wearing masks.


This advice was wrong. It is not just sick people that benefit from wearing masks. It is not true that people are flattening that into "masks don't work". Masks don't work was repeated many, many times by these organizations.

Here's an example:




Let's not practice revisionist history here. These organizations were dead wrong, and it had severe consequences for the spread of infection.

At least two of those links had nuanced reasons that matched the parent's remarks. One even literately had a three point explanation:

* There is no scientific evidence they are effective in reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission

* Their use may result in those wearing the masks to relax other distancing efforts because they have a sense of protection

* We need to preserve the supply of surgical masks for at-risk healthcare workers.

> There is no scientific evidence they are effective in reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission

It's a disease spread by exhaled droplets. How the heck could masks _not_ work? Why has common sense, as an acceptable way to obtain knowledge, died in the general public?

I am always amused at how effective the There is no scientific evidence line is. That just means it has not been studied. No one has studied masks on this specific strain? It's new for crying out loud.

> No one has studied masks on this specific strain?

You're misrepresenting the entire problem.

The main unknown is not that protective equipment helps protect. That's a absurd strawman.

The main unknown is the impact on the likelihood that someone not educated or trained or experienced in facing biological hazards would contract a virus when knowingly exposing themselves to the virus while wearing said protective equipment to the best of their personal abilities, discipline, and knowledge.

That's the main unknown.

Meanwhile, do keep in mind that the effectiveness of condoms to stop unwanted pregnancies, which are pretty much widespread and even covered by classes included as part of mandatory public education, has been as low as 79% if poorly used.


I'd say the condom analogy is great, and with R around 3, reduction in transmission beyond 70% means the damned infection rate grows no more.

What? That makes no sense at all. Just because condoms can have low effectiveness it doesn't mean that wearing face masks makes the epidemic go magically away. What kind of twisted logic is that?

The main point is that face masks are known to not be full proof, and badly worn ones might even be less effective than not wearing anything as they provide incentives for people to repeatedly touch their faces. More importantly facemasks create a false sense of safety and thus invite unwitting people to needlessly expose themselves to the virus.

If you want to understand the problem, think of combat helmets. You can put one on and safely walk into a war zone, right?

Ok, then that is the exact thing where you misunderstand.

The mask is not protecting you. It is protecting others from you.

If you were right, and wearing masks badly would have been worse than not wearing them at all (i.e. w.r.t. touching your face and all that), then countries that opted for mandatory mask wearing would be worse off and they aren't.

Related: https://www.preprints.org/manuscript/202004.0203/v1

There is a lot of work on respiratory viruses and masks, and none of the RCTs can find a benefit of wearing masks.

> No one has studied masks on this specific strain? It's new for crying out loud.

Yes they have. Here's one where they take four patients who have covid-19 and fit them with masks and ask them to cough onto petri dishes. They find covid outside the masks.


It is interesting that the cotton masks were more effective than the surgical mask:

>The median viral loads after coughs without a mask, with a surgical mask, and with a cotton mask were 2.56 log copies/mL, 2.42 log copies/mL, and 1.85 log copies/mL, respectively

My point was that if the statement read Scientific evidence shows masks are not effective it would means something. The lack of evidence showing effectiveness does not disprove effectiveness.

"This article has been retracted. See Notice of Retraction."

Yeah, maybe don't go around citing that one.

This was binary test. It looks like they were testing if Covid-19 passed through masks or not. They did not look at N95 masks, nor did they look at seeing if the viral load was decreased.

"This experiment did not include N95 masks and does not reflect the actual transmission of infection from patients with COVID-19 wearing different types of masks. We do not know whether masks shorten the travel distance of droplets during coughing. Further study is needed to recommend whether face masks decrease transmission of virus from asymptomatic individuals or those with suspected COVID-19 who are not coughing."

Looks like the authors retracted this one!

Actually it was studied for flu and N95 masks made no difference at all: tested on nurses during a year.

Because common sense has been used to justify all manner of things which are thoroughly debunked. Blood letting, bed rest, alcohol for pregnant mothers. Common sense doesn’t have a great track record.

Common sense has an excellent track record. What is it that keeps you from walking into traffic without looking, touching fire, or eating broken glass? Common sense.

Obviously common sense will sometimes lead you astray. But it kept our ancestors alive long enough for us to be here, and it stops most of us from doing life-ending stupid shit every day. It's not a silver bullet, but nothing is, not even the scientific method. If you went looking for empirical peer-reviewed studies before making all your decisions, you'd never get anything done. "Should I poke my eyeball with this fork? Common sense says no, but fuck that shit. I better consult pubmed..." "Should I cough into Grandma's face, or into this handkerchief?"

It's explained in point two. We're talking about large quantities of people here. Technically mask blocks droplets. But if you tell everyone to use a mask, does it reduce transmission on average?

What's your plausible scientific reason that blocking droplets doesn't reduce the chance of spreading the virus? My prior is, it does, based on my experience of the mask getting wet when talking.

Again, I'm not questioning that. Mathematically, does "tell people to use masks" imply "less new cases"? E.g., what if people decide to spend 5x more time with other people on average due to a mask requirement making them feel safe? That could easily cause more cases.

> It's a disease spread by exhaled droplets. How the heck could masks _not_ work?

You should really get some information on the topic you're discussing, because either you are oblivious to the point you're trying to argue against or are disingenuously misrepresenting what was actually and repeatedly said.

The main argument against wearing any protective equipment, including latex gloves which you casually omitted, was that a) it provided a false sense of safety that ironically ends up increasing the risk of contagion of everyone around you, b) create incentives for those wearing the gear to repeatedly touch their face with a much higher frequency, c) deplete the supply of protective equipment and thus deprive healthcare workers who directly contact with covid19 patients from having basic safety measures.

So how does it not work? I talk, mask gets wet. Doesn't it mean it's blocking some of the droplets from spraying out? Why not?

In healthcare there's a bunch of stuff that sounds plausible, and then we do the research, and we find that it doesn't help or it causes harm.

Evidence based medicine isn't there to stop crystal healing. It's there to work out whether knee arthroscopy is better than placebo. (For some patients it isn't).

Masks have a plausible mechanism of action. But they also have plausible mechanisms of harm: they may reduce social distancing; people touch their face more often when wearing a mask; most people don't know how to put on or take off the masks; most people don't have a safe place to store the mask when it's not being worn; etc. We don't know if the benefits outweigh the risk, because we don't have good quality evidence yet.

Here's some papers:


> Transmission of viruses was lower with physical distancing of 1 m or more, compared with a distance of less than 1 m (n=10 736, pooled adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 0·18, 95% CI 0·09 to 0·38; risk difference [RD] −10·2%, 95% CI −11·5 to −7·5; moderate certainty); protection was increased as distance was lengthened (change in relative risk [RR] 2·02 per m; pinteraction=0·041; moderate certainty). Face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection (n=2647; aOR 0·15, 95% CI 0·07 to 0·34, RD −14·3%, −15·9 to −10·7; low certainty), with stronger associations with N95 or similar respirators compared with disposable surgical masks or similar (eg, reusable 12–16-layer cotton masks; pinteraction=0·090; posterior probability >95%, low certainty).

Here they say that distancing does work. But when talking about N95 masks they only say "could" work, and for cloth masks they say they have low certainty. Later in the paper they say they need more and better evidence for masks.


Have a look at the table on page 2. They've looked at RCTs and they've found no benefit for masks. They go back and look at other data and they claim to find a benefit, which is why masks are recommended for HCPs.

When you say "it's transmitted by inhaled droplets" you didn't say how it's caught, and here it's clear that you think it's by breathing in those droplets. That's one route. The other is via the eye. Or the droplets land on surfaces and are transferred by hand to the eye or nose or mouth.


> Transmission of acute respiratory infections occurs primarily by contact and droplet routes, and accordingly, the use of a surgical mask, eye protection, gown and gloves should be considered appropriate personal protective equipment when providing routine care for a patient with a transmissible acute respiratory infection.

When someone coughs the droplets are expelled in a range of sizes. Some of these are trapped by cloth masks, but not all.


The Lancet's credibility is kind of in the toilet right now thanks to publishing that Hydroxychloroquine study that appears to have had the data pulled from thin air

> The Lancet's credibility is kind of in the toilet right now thanks to publishing that Hydroxychloroquine study

This statement is utterly absurd. The credibility of an entire scientific journal with nearly 200 years of operation is not shaken by accepting a scientific paper that after being subjected to peer review didn't held to scrutiny.

This line of critisicm reveals a profound ignorance regarding the whole scientific establishment. I mean, only someone entirely ignorant and oblivious to the whole scientific process would assume that passing the review stage of a scientific journal is a rubber-stamp of approval that all observations and ideas and conclusions represent the final and unquestionable proof. That's now how it works. Papers are published to expose ideas to peers and thus subject them to scrutiny. Some ideas don't pan out, some might be misguided, and there might even be some instances of straight pure scientific fraud. But that's not what the aim of the acceptance process, is it?

The upside of this sort of case is that suddenly we have random people caring about science and the scientific process. It's a shame though that they don't educate themselves on the very basics and instead are more interested in dragging institutions through the mud.

It looks bad right now, yes, but Lancet and NEJM both had the two studies retracted, and both will carry their reputation.

Retractions happen in all sorts of journals. Sadly, they will keep happening. Journals need to impose a page limit, alas a paper cannot describe its methodology down to every last detail, peer review can only do so much when you have bad actor intent on passing through.

This blip aside, it doesn't take away the fact NEJM and Lancet both have a history of being great sources of information, indeed they are still _the_ place doctors go to to get informed. I don't see that changing.

Point one is equivalent to saying "masks don't work" when communicated in that way to the general public.

It's also a remarkably vacuous thing to say. Of course there's not always scientific evidence for how to respond to new threats in real time. It's perfectly reasonable to make the best decisions you can with the information available. To say what they said is to try to weaponize the totally sensible dictum to "listen to the science" in a context in which they damn well knew that it made no sense (and without any indication that they thought through how their actions might potentially erode public trust in that injunction).

We have a lot of information about a variety of respiratory viruses and masks, and almost all of it says that masks don't do much.

We're getting more information about specifically covid-19, and again that says that masks don't do much.

I’m going to be as charitable as I can be here: the experts have done a very poor job of communicating the science of mask-wearing to the general public.

1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340603522_Face_Mask...

2. factually, several countries used masks as primary means of reducing transmission, including Czechs, Slovaks, Austrians, e.t.c. ... the sense of protection comes from seeing everybody else have mask

* clothmasks are enough, no need to stress about single-use disposable surgical masks

First, let's (not be tedious and) agree that the reason healthcare workers wear masks is to prevent airborne infections, especially of SARS-Cov-2.

Now clearly your first and second points contradict each other.

Furthermore the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.

Cf. Peer reviewed studies, or lack thereof, supporting the 6 ft "social" distancing protocol and, up until recently, the use of parachutes while jumping out of a plane.

> agree that the reason healthcare workers wear masks is to prevent airborne infections, especially of SARS-Cov-2.

There's a big difference between a healthcare professional spending time in close contact with symptomatic people and a member of the public spending time walking round a supermarket.

And healthcare professionals do not "wear masks", they wear a full set of PPE including gloves, gown, mask, eye protection. They also have access to running water and soap, and alcohol hand gels.

> Peer reviewed studies, or lack thereof, supporting the 6 ft "social" distancing protocol

No, we have studies supporting 1 metre distancing and recommending 2 meter distancing. The evidence for this distancing is much stronger than the evidence for mask wearing.

Healthcare professionals absolutely do wear masks. Words have meanings.

Let's make our minds up about whether the lack of papers supporting mask-wearing against the virus is reason not to wear their them.

Also I'm earnestly interested in your source on the distancing evidence.

But the mask is part of a set of PPE. By ignoring the eyes you're ignoring an important route.


> 2019-nCoV transmission through the ocular surface must not be ignored

Source for distancing: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6...


Our search identified 172 observational studies across 16 countries and six continents, with no randomised controlled trials and 44 relevant comparative studies in health-care and non-health-care settings (n=25 697 patients). Transmission of viruses was lower with physical distancing of 1 m or more, compared with a distance of less than 1 m (n=10 736, pooled adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 0·18, 95% CI 0·09 to 0·38; risk difference [RD] −10·2%, 95% CI −11·5 to −7·5; moderate certainty); protection was increased as distance was lengthened (change in relative risk [RR] 2·02 per m; pinteraction=0·041; moderate certainty). Face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection (n=2647; aOR 0·15, 95% CI 0·07 to 0·34, RD −14·3%, −15·9 to −10·7; low certainty), with stronger associations with N95 or similar respirators compared with disposable surgical masks or similar (eg, reusable 12–16-layer cotton masks; pinteraction=0·090; posterior probability >95%, low certainty). Eye protection also was associated with less infection (n=3713; aOR 0·22, 95% CI 0·12 to 0·39, RD −10·6%, 95% CI −12·5 to −7·7; low certainty). Unadjusted studies and subgroup and sensitivity analyses showed similar findings.


The findings of this systematic review and meta-analysis support physical distancing of 1 m or more and provide quantitative estimates for models and contact tracing to inform policy. Optimum use of face masks, respirators, and eye protection in public and health-care settings should be informed by these findings and contextual factors. Robust randomised trials are needed to better inform the evidence for these interventions, but this systematic appraisal of currently best available evidence might inform interim guidance.

> * We need to preserve the supply of surgical masks for at-risk healthcare workers.

Do hospitals get their stocks from hardware stores in boxes of ten? As much as I've seen, they buy from large distributors who prioritize government agencies and often don't serve individual consumers at all.

Many sent people to hardware stores etc to buy masks.

No doubt, but knowing how much PPE my local hospital goes through in a week, it's difficult to believe that hardware stores etc would any significant impact on PPE availability. The most commonly sold type (FFP1) isn't even allowed in hospital settings.

Yes, those are indeed the reasons they lied about mask-wearing. Their reasons for lying are not in dispute. You may even agree that those are good reasons to lie. But what's also not in dispute is that they did lie. (Perhaps the most charitable thing you could say about your list is that they leaned heavily on the first point in public to justify conserving masks in light of what they believed about the latter two points in private.)

Some of you seem to think lying isn’t lying if your heart is pure, but it’s an ordinary word with an uncomplicated meaning.

  These organizations were dead wrong, and it had severe consequences for the spread of infection. 
There really does not seem to be good evidence for this statement, and I've looked although not exhaustively. Got any good primary sources?

Lot's of things are tried with a novel virus, and only some of them work. The only things so far that seem to be clearly working are distancing regulations and effective contract trace, the latter being very difficult to implement.

I'm not sure about "severe consequences". If you compare Switzerland (where, although the government now recommends masks in public transport at least but almost nobody does wear a mask) and Austria (where wearing masks while shopping/in public transport etc was made mandatory when the restrictions were eased), you don't see much of a difference in the amount of new cases. I do believe masks work and I do wear one when I'm going near other people (not when I go for a run) but seeing how few people wear masks here and it seemingly not making a difference does make me wonder how essential they are, and it makes me doubt people blaming the severity of the outbreak in the US on the confused mask messaging.

You'd see though a dramatic difference in death rate between Austria and Switzerland. It appears, that the virus is deadlier when you get more of it the moment you infected; countries with the strictest mask regimes, voluntary or mandatory (Taiwan, Korea etc) have the lowest death rate, but not necessarily infection rate.

Quite frankly, I'm surprised there hasn't been an uptick in cases here in Switzerland. At least in the city where I live, few people wear masks on public transit or in grocery stores and virtually no one seems to do so in restaurants or cafes. Social distancing also doesn't seem to be diligently observed by many/most people. It's quite possible that there are so few infected people that it will be enough to contain the spread, especially with fewer people commuting in general, but I'm not exactly confident in the safety of this strategy.

The best I heard it explained as was a dilemma. Do you tell people that only n95 masks or better work to protect the wearer? If you do then, because enough stockpile of n95 masks wasn’t maintained for this pandemic, critical medical practitioners like ER staff, nurses, doctors, surgeons wouldn’t be able to wear PPE. Or Do you lie and tell people n95 masks don’t work in the hopes essential medical personnel are then able to find masks? I think they went with the later. I think this was discussed by Michael O. during his appearance on JRE.

Dilemma or not lying erodes trust. Was it worth it? Probably not is what a lot of people are saying.

It also ignores a third option (and one that was actually used anyways), blocking all shipments of n95 masks to retail outlets to send to hospitals instead

That’s not an option. Apparently hospitals get their stock from essentially the same places as the rest of us. Like not the target down the road but the warehouse target gets its stock of ppe.

Yes, and those warehouses halted shipments of PPE to retailers like Target at the start of the pandemic

And it still wasn’t going to be enough.

It's not like they pulled existing stock in consumer retail outlets off the shelf, so I don't see how lying to the public about mask efficacy had any significant effect on the supply for healthcare workers

Wouldn’t have been enough.

> recommended against the general public wearing masks.

which masks? for what reasons?

> It is not true that people are flattening that into "masks don't work"...Here's an example:

This is an example... of how the advice got flattened. Quoting from that first link:

"Surgical masks likely have some utility as source control (meaning the wearer limits virus dispersal to another person)" "Respirators, though, are the only option that can ensure protection for frontline workers dealing with COVID-19 cases, once all of the strategies for optimizing respirator supply have been implemented."

See anything familiar from my earlier comment in there? Surgical masks are not personally protective, but they reduce transmission. Respirators are protective, but should not be general public resort.

The second article? It's talking about a global shortage, so it's clear which kind of masks they're recommending people not wear. Same with the last article... which also has a later section talking about how masks slow transmission and can be effective.

So... yeah. People were absolutely flattening the advice. And apparently some still are.

If you want, you can transform that into a communications argument, but like I said above, that reinforces the position that curation is an important part of the process.

Their fundamental message was that masks do not work. They hedged in their language, but their recommendations were predicated on the idea that they are ineffective at slowing transmission. This is and was disastrously false.

Saying that "there's no evidence that masks work" is tantamount to saying they don't work. There is also no formal evidence that standing next to an infected person is a risk. I'm not aware of any studies that have officially proven that yet. But we still know that it is, and saying "there's no evidence that exposure to an infected person puts you at risk of infection" would be a ridiculously inaccurate thing to say.

The article from U. of Minnesota:

"We do not recommend requiring the general public who do not have symptoms of COVID-19-like illness to routinely wear cloth or surgical masks because:

"There is no scientific evidence they are effective in reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission

"Their use may result in those wearing the masks to relax other distancing efforts because they have a sense of protection

"We need to preserve the supply of surgical masks for at-risk healthcare workers.

"Sweeping mask recommendations—as many have proposed—will not reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission, as evidenced by the widespread practice of wearing such masks in Hubei province, China, before and during its mass COVID-19 transmission experience earlier this year. Our review of relevant studies indicates that cloth masks will be ineffective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, whether worn as source control or as PPE.

"Surgical masks likely have some utility as source control (meaning the wearer limits virus dispersal to another person) from a symptomatic patient in a healthcare setting to stop the spread of large cough particles and limit the lateral dispersion of cough particles. They may also have very limited utility as source control or PPE in households."

Note the word in the first sentence: "requiring".

The article then goes on to describe filter fit and efficiency.

"These studies demonstrate that cloth or homemade masks will have very low filter efficiency (2% to 38%). Medical masks are made from a wide range of materials, and studies have found a wide range of filter efficiency (2% to 98%), with most exhibiting 30% to 50% efficiency.6-12"

"In sum, given the paucity of information about their performance as source control in real-world settings, along with the extremely low efficiency of cloth masks as filters and their poor fit, there is no evidence to support their use by the public or healthcare workers to control the emission of particles from the wearer."

As well as surgical masks...

"There is no evidence that surgical masks worn by healthcare workers are effective at limiting the emission of small particles or in preventing contamination of wounds during surgery.

"There is moderate evidence that surgical masks worn by patients in healthcare settings can lower the emission of large particles generated during coughing and limited evidence that small particle emission may also be reduced."

And N95 respirators...

"In summary, N95 FFRs on patients will not be effective and may not be appropriate, particularly if they have respiratory illness or other underlying health conditions. Given the current extreme shortages of respirators needed in healthcare, we do not recommend the use of N95 FFRs in public or household settings."

And in conclusion:

"While this is not an exhaustive review of masks and respirators as source control and PPE, we made our best effort to locate and review the most relevant studies of laboratory and real-world performance to inform our recommendations. Results from laboratory studies of filter and fit performance inform and support the findings in real-world settings.

"Cloth masks are ineffective as source control and PPE, surgical masks have some role to play in preventing emissions from infected patients, and respirators are the best choice for protecting healthcare and other frontline workers, but not recommended for source control. These recommendations apply to pandemic and non-pandemic situations.

"Leaving aside the fact that they are ineffective, telling the public to wear cloth or surgical masks could be interpreted by some to mean that people are safe to stop isolating at home. It's too late now for anything but stopping as much person-to-person interaction as possible.

"Masks may confuse that message and give people a false sense of security. If masks had been the solution in Asia, shouldn't they have stopped the pandemic before it spread elsewhere?"

All of this is backed up with a goodly stack of references. Which part do you consider dead wrong, and based on what?

Among other things, this is obvious BS:

> "There is no scientific evidence they are effective in reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission

Given that the coronavirus appeared only a few months ago, "no scientific evidence" doesn't mean much because very little research exists on the subject. Also, there is no harm in caution.

Interestingly, they keep suggesting social distancing, which doesn't have much scientific support, either. It's just one of those common sense things.

But SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted pretty much like SARS and MERS, and we have a bunch of information about masks for those.

We also have a lot of information about other respiratory viruses.

> Masks don't work was repeated many, many times by these organizations.

Repeated many times while they were stockpiling them for themselves to resell at 10x the cost to hospitals.

The US Surgeon General: https://twitter.com/surgeon_general/status/12337257852839321...

"Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus..."

This is an instance of what I described in my above comment.

"STOP BUYING MASKS" is not "Masks don't work," especially given the rest of the context of the statement where he's saying they're important to protect high-exposure roles healthcare providers. Which means he's also saying they work.

"They are not effective in preventing the general public" might be reasonably interpreted as "masks don't work", but given that he's clearly saying they work in the same breath, it's a better bet that he means something else.

When one says that "masks are not effective", it's literally the definition of "masks don't work." Please don't try to weasel out of it by trying to argue basic definitions of words. That's like Bill Clinton arguing over the definition of what "is" means to try to save himself. Just admit that you're wrong and move on.

It's clear that the message in the early stages of the pandemic was that "all masks didn't work, but you should save it for the health care workers". The absurd contradiction of that statement was what made reasonable people such as myself no longer trust what they said, because it was obvious they were hiding things from us. It's obvious that if you have a respiratory disease, then wearing a mask will be effective.

Since then, it has come out that masks are actually extremely effective in preventing spread.

> Since then, it has come out that masks are actually extremely effective in preventing spread.

No it hasn't. Show me the research.

> "all masks didn't work, but you should save it for the health care workers". The absurd contradiction

It's not an absurd contradiction. A member of the public walks around and is only going to meet a few people with covid-19, and hopefully they are pre-symptomatic (because if they have symptoms they need to stay at home)

A healthcare professional is stuck in a room with symptomatic people, often in close contact. And they're not wearing a cloth mask or fluid resistant surgical mask, they're wearing a mask that has to be fitted to them. They have training on how to put it on and take it off. They also wear gloves, a gown, and a face shield or eye protection. They have running water and soap, and they have alcohol handgel. For fluid resistant surgical masks they take them off and use a new one for each patient.

One patient in one ICU bay will have 30 pairs of gloves used by staff per day.

> No it hasn't. Show me the research.

Here: https://www.livescience.com/face-masks-eye-protection-covid-...

> With face masks, the chance of infection or transmission was 3% with a mask compared with 17% without a mask, a reduction of more than 80%. And for eye protection, the chance of infection or transmission was 6% with protection and 16% without.

The problem is not all people in the public at large will apply that same logic and just take the statement at face value at first glance. Masks don't work. Don't buy masks. When you ask them the question of "what did they initially tell you" later, their response would be "masks don't work."

With someone in such an official position, misinformation can do great harm for people that know no better. Anyone who doesn't do their own research might think they're supposed to trust these people when worst comes to worst. And when they find out the advice is contradictory, that trust is lost, and might not be rebuilt for a very long time. It breeds doubt.

Personally however, I couldn't for the life of me believe that having no mask is better than having one.

Totally on board with criticism of how effectively (or not) the tweet communicates key ideas. There's some hazards, and we could reasonably expect that people who are appointed to provide clear public leadership would be better at that job.

But that reinforces the importance of well-curated communication, which is the context for this discussion, where apparently some are criticizing Amazon for refusing to release communication that is not only not-well expressed, as the tweet arguably is, but is actively disinformative to delusional.

Here's an extended quote of his, found on Snopes fact check.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/surgeon-general-against-ma... > One of the things [the general public] shouldn’t be doing is going out and buying masks … It has not been proven to be effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus amongst the general public … Folks who don’t know how to wear them properly tend to touch their faces a lot, and actually can increase the spread of coronavirus. You can increase your risk of getting it by wearing a mask if you are not a healthcare provider.

I'm pretty sure all of that is still true. In some cases, for some people, wearing a mask can be neutral or even net-negative. Maybe we learned enough to find that for the population at large wearing masks is better than not, but it's still a trade off.

> In some cases, for some people, wearing a mask can be neutral or even net-negative.

If you don't wear it on your face.

It's completely untrue. Multiple studies have come out afterwards saying that masks are very effective at reducing spread. It is an overwhelming net positive to wear masks.

Please elaborate on these cases in which masks have supposedly a net negative effect on the wearer.

It's in the above tweet. Your mask is by definition contaminated (that's why you wear it, to catch the contamination), and many people fiddle with their masks. They then rub their eyes, or they touch their mouth.

People touch their faces all the time, whether they're wearing masks or not. This theoretical harm exists equally in both cases; in fact, touching the mask may remind you you're not supposed to be touching your face, and trigger a hand washing or hand sanitizer use.

Then let's solve that problem!

We need better evidence that masks provide any benefit and don't cause harm before we try to fix problems.

We really don't at this point:


> The use of face masks was protective for both health-care workers and people in the community exposed to infection, with both the frequentist and Bayesian analyses lending support to face mask use irrespective of setting. Our unadjusted analyses might, at first impression, suggest use of face masks in the community setting to be less effective than in the health-care setting, but after accounting for differential N95 respirator use between health-care and non-health-care settings, we did not detect any striking differences in effectiveness of face mask use between settings. The credibility of effect-modification across settings was, therefore, low. Wearing face masks was also acceptable and feasible. Policy makers at all levels should, therefore, strive to address equity implications for groups with currently limited access to face masks and eye protection.

The onus is on the "they're dangerous!" folks now.

You know you've linked me to a pop-sci piece about a study that I've already linked several times in this thread?

> However, the authors note that the findings on face masks and eye protection are based on limited evidence.

So limited that this finding was "low confidence". And that's for optimal use of N95 masks, not for fluid resistant surgical masks or cloth masks.

Here's what the actual study said:

> From a policy and public health perspective, current policies of at least 1 m physical distancing seem to be strongly associated with a large protective effect, and distances of 2 m could be more effective. These data could also facilitate harmonisation of the definition of exposed (eg, within 2 m), which has implications for contact tracing. The quantitative estimates provided here should inform disease-modelling studies, which are important for planning pandemic response efforts. Policy makers around the world should strive to promptly and adequately address equity implications for groups with currently limited access to face masks and eye protection. For health-care workers and administrators, our findings suggest that N95 respirators might be more strongly associated with protection from viral transmission than surgical masks. Both N95 and surgical masks have a stronger association with protection compared with single-layer masks. Eye protection might also add substantial protection. For the general public, evidence shows that physical distancing of more than 1 m is highly effective and that face masks are associated with protection, even in non-health-care settings, with either disposable surgical masks or reusable 12–16-layer cotton ones, although much of this evidence was on mask use within households and among contacts of cases. Eye protection is typically under considered and can be effective in community settings. However, no intervention, even when properly used, was associated with complete protection from infection. Other basic measures (eg, hand hygiene) are still needed in addition to physical distancing and use of face masks and eye protection.

The article links to The Lancet. I've edited and cite directly from the paper, and no, it's not "for optimal use of N95 masks". See my quoted segment.

Even the bit you're quoting says "face masks are associated with protection, even in non-health-care settings".

> Even the bit you're quoting says "face masks are associated with protection, even in non-health-care settings".

What's the control group?

Here's what the paper says about the evidence:

> Further high-quality research, including randomised trials of the optimum physical distance and the effectiveness of different types of masks in the general population and for health-care workers' protection, is urgently needed.

> What's the control group?

People who don't wear masks?

"We need more studies" is not the same as "our own study is bullshit". It's a simple statement of "there's something here that needs further confirmation".

In the meantime, I'm wearing a mask based on preliminary results, and the abject lack of "masks are actively dangerous" studies of any quality the anti-mask folks can refer to as a counterpoint.

Even with this very charitable interpretation, he was still completely incorrect about their effectiveness for stopping public spread, was he not?


There's no evidence that masks do anything at all to prevent public spread.

People point to countries that had successful anti-covid work and use of masks, but they're missing all the other work those countries did around social distancing and track and trace.

Lack of evidence is not evidence of absence.

But we have evidence about respiratory viruses and masks, and it all says they don't work.

We even have the beginnings of evidence coming through for SARS-CoV-2. They got people who have covid to wear a mask and cough on a petri dish. Covid escaped the masks.

> But we have evidence about respiratory viruses and masks, and it all says they don't work.

What? Medical personnel regularly utilize surgical masks against respiratory viruses spread by droplets successfully.

They're less useful against aerosolized stuff like measles, but SARS-CoV-2 is primarily spread via droplet.

Your first paragraph is a blatant strawman on the argument presented here in the comments.

The US Surgeon General said "You can increase your risk of getting it by wearing a mask if you are not a health care provider" [1].

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/02/health/surgeon-general-corona...

Something that I think is important about the concept of free speech is that journalists and authors shouldn't be attempting to worry about the first and second order effects of their writings. They can't possibly correctly predict them, because people can't predict the future.

Just take all of your thoughts on digital books on Kindle, switch them to a collection of physical publishers who have a monopoly on printing presses, and ask yourself if you still think it's ok.

What if it's your opinion next time that is censored?

An Australian doctor discovered (about 20 years ago I believe) that a species of bacterium played a huge role in peptic ulcers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Marshall

He was censored, shunned from the medical establishment, and laughed at for years. He was correct.

Why do you place so much blind faith in these institutions to a point where you just KNOW it will never be you being censored? Are you a uniquely enlightened human being who has never had an idea that the majority of the people in the room completely disagreed with?

The medical establishment was censoring Barry Marshall because they were worried about the first and second order effects of people trying to treat ulcers with antibiotics. It was dangerous, they said.

How long before the guns get turned on you, me, or others?

Well said. Let's not forget Ignaz Semmelweiss, who make the outlandish claim that surgical and childbirth mortalities would decrease if surgeons washed their hands between procedures.

The reason why was because he declared there existed something called "bacteria", invisible to the eye, which was infecting patients and killing them.

He was ridiculed (#fakenews!), stripped of his professional degrees, LOCKED IN AN INSANE ASYLUM and eventually, beaten to death by guards.

Well, turned out, ole Semmelweiss was onto something. Who knew?

You are being a revisionist. The Surgeon General himself said that masks don't work.


Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!

They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!

Asymptomatic spread was confirmed as significant the end of Feb when they tested the cruise passengers, and most of Asia already had some form of mandatory mask order in place. Widespread mask usage was shown in at least a few NIH studies to reduce transmission, though most looked at getting a virus versus transmitting it IIRC.

To me it looks like CDC/WHO hubris caused them to completely disregard Asia's approach until they could "discover" it themselves.

> "Who said masks don't work? What I recall people saying is:

> * most masks provide marginal protection to the wearer

> * the masks that provide effective protection should be saved for those in situations where they need them (and can be knowledgeably used)

> * most people probably don't need those masks"

yup, moreover, masks are marginal on top of other measures, most notably distancing. masks can make a difference if you're in a situation where you can't distance when face-to-face in proximity of strangers for more than a short time. distancing requires less "expertise" and cognizance as well, so is a better principal measure all around.

that's a more nuanced message than "masks don't work". the opposing "wear masks at all times" is similarly dogmatic and incorrect.

It may be similarly dogmatic, but there are degrees of correctness, and a world where everyone wears masks all the time is one with with much less coronavirus than one where no one except medical professionals wear them.

> a world where everyone wears masks all the time is one with with much less coronavirus

You don't know that.

thank you for demonstrating the exact illusion of safety that's so pervasive around mask-wearing. no, masks are marginal, that's the point, they work at the margins.

it's the distancing that's doing the work of "much less coronavirus". for your statement to be relatively true, we'd need to live in a world with no lockdowns and no distancing.

Do you have a source for your claim that masks are less impactful than distancing?


> The findings of this systematic review and meta-analysis support physical distancing of 1 m or more and provide quantitative estimates for models and contact tracing to inform policy. Optimum use of face masks, respirators, and eye protection in public and health-care settings should be informed by these findings and contextual factors. Robust randomised trials are needed to better inform the evidence for these interventions, but this systematic appraisal of currently best available evidence might inform interim guidance.

This is clear: physical distance definitely works. Optimal use of masks might work -- that's all they can say, and they need better evidence.

Further down, under "Added value of this study," it says "Physical distancing of 1 m or more was associated with a much lower risk of infection, as was use of face masks (including N95 respirators or similar and surgical or similar masks [eg, 12–16-layer cotton or gauze masks]) and eye protection (eg, goggles or face shields)"

Yes, but that's a low certainty finding.

Low certainty * "large reduction in risk of infection" doesn't equal masks being marginal though, does it? (Not rhetorical, I'm an amateur at statistics) That means they need more data, but if an effect exists, it is large?

And I feel like we can reason about this to some extent from first principles - If the virus is spread through particles from faces, then face coverings will decrease the numbers of particles from faces that 1) get into the air and 2) get into peoples' faces, no matter how crappy the face coverings are. It seems more plausible to me that the problem is lack of data rather than incorrect conclusion, which seems like a reasonable interpretation of this particular study?

You realize wide swaths of the global population use communal transportation in the form of trains, busses and subways? And then go to work in poorly ventilated factories or office buildings? I'm not sure what you intend as the solution other than nobody may ever leave the house again. Social distancing simply doesn't work when applied to everyday situations like this unless you find a way to get most people to opt out. Just working in the same office means a high risk of transmission despite whatever 1-3m distancing rule you want to instate.

Free flow of information is not the same as misinformation. Lack of understanding is not the same as misinforming.

I 100% support restricting distribution of material that is based on conjecture and bullshit info. Especially when that information comes with a for-profit motive. This person can easily put their book for free on their own website if they really feel they have important information to share.

Amazon can decide what goes on their platform. It always baffles me that people think that free speech comes with a right to have an audience. That's not what free speech is.

Have you kept up with our esteemed epidemiologists? They did an abrupt U-turn within a week:

“We should always evaluate the risks and benefits of efforts to control the virus,” Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, tweeted on Tuesday. “In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus.”


How can we decide what's scientific anymore?

> How can we decide what's scientific anymore?

Trust Amazon moderators will do the right thing, of course!

I'm sure Amazon can build a massive team of highly educated unbiased technocrats to carefully parse through the tens of millions of content being added to their services any one day.

There's no way this could fail.

We can't allow anyone to publish a book advocating heliocentrism, that is heresy!

> That's not what free speech is.

The argument becomes more difficult the more widely used and essential a platform is. Would you make the same argument about being restricted in what you can say over a private chat service? Over the last decades and especially during the pandemic how people assemble and use their right to free speech has massively shifted.

Before you assume that I hold an strong opinion on this: I don't think I do. I don't know where I want the line to be.

>> That's not what free speech is.

> The argument becomes more difficult the more widely used and essential a platform is.

The solution is to not let any one platform get that big and essential as a matter of policy.

For free speech to actually be positive, I'm starting to think it's actually pretty important for that speech to be subjected to some kind of peer review process before it's broadcast widely. We used to have that when broadcasting was more limited and expensive, but by destroying those limits, social media also weakened the peer review.

People are more comfortable with smaller actors making editorial decisions, we need those kinds of decisions, so we need to keep the actors smaller.

When people say the things that you say, what they really mean is "I believe in free speech, except for those opinions that I don't believe are right."

Restricting free speech until it's vetted is literally counter to what free speech actually is. Free speech is allowing everyone to speak, even if it makes you nauseous. If you don't believe in free speech, then say so, that's your right as per free speech. But please don't try to gaslight people into thinking that "peer-reviewed free speech" is anything except censorship.

What if the peers that review it don't agree with your world view and don't allow books published that you agree with? Will you calmly accept it, or will you claim censorship?

> When people say the things that you say, what they really mean is "I believe in free speech, except for those opinions that I don't believe are right."

No they don't, since you misunderstood what I was saying.

> Restricting free speech until it's vetted is literally counter to what free speech actually is. Free speech is allowing everyone to speak, even if it makes you nauseous.

Again, I'm not advocating restricting anyone's speech, but rather emphasizing the value of a system with people who make editorial judgements. Amazon, like any publisher, should have the uncontroversial right to refuse to publish or sell any book it pleases for any reason it finds compelling. If its size makes people queasy about that, then it should be broken up to the point where that's not an issue.

> But please don't try to gaslight people into thinking that "peer-reviewed free speech" is anything except censorship.

So you're saying it's censorship that scientific journals refuse to publish the papers crackpots send them?

It's worth remembering that the ultimate goal of free speech is for the truth to prevail, not to nauseate everyone by forcing them to sort through and disseminate mountains of garbage.

The reviews are not coming from peers. The are exclusively coming from a niche section of the population: urban, young, affluent and left leaning. Not that this it would be OK even if it was a "diverse" gang of censors.

Ooh! Oooh!, I've got one (in Hans Landa voice)

[4] https://www.amazon.com/Worlds-Collion-Immanuel-Velikovsky/dp...

‘who decides what is bullshit’

Is the usual problem with this.

I don't buy the argument that bullshit exists on a perpetually grey gradient. There are things that are clearly bullshit.

I think flat earth falls into that category. However... the problem is there are also things that seem clearly like bullshit that we later find out not to be.

Have you ever been completely convinced about something that turned out to be entirely wrong? Almost certainly, probably more than a few times. It happens to all of us. And sometimes this happens on a societal scale with things like science and civil rights. Ideas not accepted at the time, attempted silence, but fortunately resisted censorship until history was able to bore them out.

Nobody is making that argument.

The problem is that there are fewer clearly bullshit things than people think.

Yes, that is what they told Galileo. They were wrong of course, but we are so much wiser now, we could not possibly make the same mistakes.

Well, with ideas like the one that claims COVID is spread to 5G networks, it's pretty easy to draw the line. But I get what you're saying. The closer you get to a rational argument the harder it is to scrutinize it.

Can you please provide a quote from the book in question?

That comment isn't about the book in question so I'm not sure why you're asking them?

What do you mean the right to have an audience? People still need to buy the freaking thing, why does Amazon get to decide if they can or cannot?

Different rules apply when you are a monopoly. Amazon refusing to sell a book is very different from a Mom and Pop shop doing the same.

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

Who watches the watchmen?

Yep.. now people to can say "They" don't wan't you to know the truth.

There was an article on the front page yesterday about the retraction of one of the hydroxychloroquine papers; all of the comments on the original article were of the "they don't want you to know the truth" sort.

You cannot win against true believers.

> You cannot win against true believers

I'm a true believer in the drug's seventy year safety record when given as a prophylactic for malaria prevention millions of times and over the counter in many places.

I think you are missing the point.

In the history books, having a printing press was expensive and only a few large organizations could publish books. Now I can write a politics book with GPT2 and upload it to Amazon and it'll be listed alongside New York Times Best Sellers.

There were plenty of official non-American organizations saying that masks worked, they had years of peer reviewed studies to back their claims up. I don't think these books are upheld to the same rigor.

Been thinking about this for a couple hours. Decided to make a throwaway to post.

Not to call you out specifically but you asked about thinking about second order effects.

It got me to thinking this is a hypocritical for social media users to question OTHERS inability to consider them.

The machines Ycom and often this audience rely on, the energy, are terribly destructive to a stable environment for humans.

And the obvious distraction they create from government. It’s unwise, imo, to be so distracted from the groups that claim monopoly on violence. All the looking away these last decades lead us here. This isn’t a spontaneous result. You, we, as part of society didn’t bring that effort we brought this other one.

Utilitarian work is one thing. Surrounding ourselves with hyperbole, spectacle, and disposable gadgets and effort...

...contemporary society has pretty much destroyed its credibility with noble lies about the mess, value of our effort to future.

What a shock the power structure itself would behave just like society as a whole.

Considering the national past time is “not my economics problem so I don’t care”, what real credibility is there?

Also, go ahead and celebrate Chinese New Year in NY. Nothing to fear.

This isn't censorship. Are we going to get mad at a children's book store refusing to carry explicit adult literature?

Amazon has put in place publicly know and clearly defined policies for a specific and unique situation. This is not a slippery slope. The second they step out of that boundary there will be severe backlash.

This is a journalist with credentials with a fully sourced and referenced book. It is censorship because of Amazon's absolutely dominance over the market. Their marketshare means they literally control the medium for the majority of people in this world who read e-books.

You can say the same thing about Google/Youtube: it's their platform, but when 90% of people in the world go there first for videos, any removal does turn into censorship.

Yes, we should all be running our own peer-tube instances and authors running their own sites to distribute DRM free books, but until we actually get there (and we won't because people are sheep and don't like putting in effort when so much is in front of them on their 1984 distraction device), then Google, Amazon and others will continue to be The Ministry of Truth.

I wrote about this in 2017:


Anyone can sell the book themselves. Routinely you will see people on HN self publishing technical titles on Leanpub etc. No one is shouting them down or deplatforming them.

Amazon is a private company and they can sell what they want. That seems to bother you, because of a de facto monopoly they hold, but that is beside the point. Why do you think it is an author’s right to have any third party sell their book?

Unless it's for another good reason.

There is always another good reason.

I do not care what the children's book store owner decides to publish. But Amazon is a near monopoly. Different rules apply.

”Remember what the official word was...masks don’t work, but save them for health workers.”

Three things:

One, nobody’s recommendations have changed with regard to “saving” masks: you should not be using medical-grade equipment, such as N95 masks or surgical masks. There is a shortage, and hospitals need it more.

Two, the CDC changed recommendations. The WHO still says they’re necessary only if you’re sick or caring for someone who is sick. Recommendations vary wildly by country, and there is far from consensus.

Three, the science is far from clear on the effectiveness of masks for the general public. At this point, it’s become more religion than science:



(pre-emptive rebuttal: the WHO report which came out last week was a meta-review, and was very clear that there is no significant evidence supporting the use of non-medical masks for the general public. The review freely mixed source-control and PPE studies, which is questionable, at best. It showed that there may be a small effect if people wear medical equipment...the effect was actually about the same as for eye protection.

The only new papers with new, non-review data on masks since the beginning of the year are Leung, et al., which was statistically insignificant for all but one experiment, which was barely significant, and based on <10 data points. The other paper was about separating cages of hamsters with surgical mask material, which while interesting, is not a paper about masks.)

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