Answer Desk: Free speech versus public health

Answer Desk

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) –   Is there a line between free speech and public health?  It’s a question many are asking after Amazon pulled 5 films spreading information against vaccinations. 

The current controversy stems from several documentaries on Amazon challenging the scientific consensus that vaccines are safe. Earlier this month Congressman Adam Schiff sent an open letter calling on the company to stop “surfacing and recommending” content that “discourages parents from vaccinating their children.” 

Amazon has declined to comment on the letter, but several of the anti-vaccine films are now “currently unavailable” including a newly released film called “The Greater Good”.

Leslie Manookian is a producer of the film.

“Well, listen, if I want to say that climbing to top of the mountain causes cancer, that should be my right. It’s lunacy to say that I shouldn’t be able to say that,” said Leslie Manookian. 

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson is a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She says misinformation is crowding out real science on vaccines and endangering public health.

“This feels like a watershed moment. This feels like a time where everybody’s raising their hands saying, ‘Wait a second, it matters what information is served up to me and I want to understand it more,” said Wendy Sue Swanson . 

Facebook has pledged to “reduce the ranking” of pages that “spread misinformation about vaccinations.” Google stated it’s “reducing recommendations of…content that can misinform users in harmful ways”. Pinterest stopped serving results for searches related to vaccines. 

Amazon has apparently also removed several books related to vaccines. In a statement to CBS the company says it’s “mindful of a global history fraught with book censorship, and we do not take this lightly.”

But many people feel these moves are impeding their freedom of speech.

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