Labelling misinformation online is doing more harm than good. The possibility that Covid-19 came from a lab accident is just the latest example. Social media companies tried to suppress any discussion of it for months. But why? There’s no strong evidence against it, and evidence for other theories is still inconclusive. Pathogens have escaped from labs many times, and people have died as a result.
Social media fact-checkers don’t have any special knowledge or ability to sort fact from misinformation. What they have is extraordinary power to shape what people believe. And stifling ideas can backfire if it leads people to believe there’s a “real story” that is being suppressed.
The fiasco was the media’s propagation of the lie that the issue was settled and that anyone questioning it might be deemed an idiot or conspiracy theorist.