Reddit moderators removed The Great Barrington Declaration, an anti-lockdown statement by some of the world's leading epidemiologists. The censorship is proof that social platforms, like mainstream media, are not welcoming of discussions surrounding alternatives to lockdown.
The Great Barrington Declaration was published last week, and, at press time, it had about 240,000 signatures. The declaration proposes what the authors call “Focused Protection” for the pandemic rather than total lockdowns.
“The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection,” the declaration explains.
The declaration was originally authored by three experts in the field of epidemiology; Dr Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, Dr Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford, and Dr Sunetra Gupta of Oxford.
The proposal borrows from the traditional approach to pandemics, which has been emulated by countries such as Sweden. It is a more realistic approach that factors in the economic consequences of a lockdown.
The declaration was posted on two Reddit channels; r/Coronavirus and r/COVID-19. The former has 2.3 million members while the latter has 300,000 members. However, shortly after the article was posted, moderators of both channels removed it.
The groups are coronavirus discussion forums where members post news and reports related to the pandemic. Additionally, The Great Barrington Declaration is an article authored and signed by leading health experts. For these reasons, the censorship of the article is surprising.
Moreover, the declaration does not go against Reddit's content policy.
On the r/COVID-19 subreddit, which is more academic-oriented, moderators gave the following explanation for the removal of the article:
“Posts and, where appropriate, comments must link to a primary scientific source: peer-reviewed original research, pre-prints from established servers, and research or reports by governments and other reputable organisations. Please do not link to YouTube or Twitter.
News stories and secondary or tertiary reports about original research are a better fit for r/Coronavirus.”
In short, the moderators deemed the article a “news story or tertiary report,” rather than a scientific source of information.
The moderators of r/Coronavirus, a more general forum where the r/COVID-19 moderators suggested the declaration belongs, moderators removed the article and explained:
“Content must not be spam or be promotional in nature. Spamming the same or very similar posts or comments, as well as self-promotion of any kind will likely lead to a ban. Scams will be reported to authorities.”
The declaration is neither self-promotion nor spam. It is a statement by health experts trying to tell the world there is an alternative approach to the pandemic, that has actually worked in some parts of the world and used in previous epidemics.
While Reddit, like other social platforms, has the right to moderate content, censoring such an article goes against their culture and mission statement of bringing “community and belonging to everybody in the world.