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MSU Professor & US Secretary Of Housing Disclose Reality Of The Black Budget & Extraterrestrials

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A Michigan State University economist teamed up with multiple researchers, including Catherine Austin Fitts, former assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development and they found trillions of unaccounted for dollars missing from housing & D.O.D

  • Reflect On:

    Do we really live in a world with honest government transparency? How can we claim to be living in a democracy when trillions of dollars are being spent on projects that nobody has any idea about? What is going on here?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. There is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. – JFK

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If you suggested to someone a decade ago that secrecy dominates our world, and that transparency on a larger scale really doesn’t exist at all, not many would take you seriously. We, the public, have been kept inside a bubble, and outside that bubble exists a “breakaway civilization,” a term coined by author and historian Richard Dolan to describe the vast amount of knowledge in the form of science, technology, history, etc that’s been amassed by the military industrial complex.

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Everything in this area is simply deemed “classified,” receiving absolutely no oversight from Congress. They’re referred to as deep black projects that in 2008 ex-Canadian Defence Minister Paul Hellyer described as projects that the “Commander in Chief has no idea about.”

This information is now coming to light, and it received even more attention when last year, a Michigan State University economist, working with one former government official and multiple graduate students discovered that $21 trillion of “unauthorized” spending had occurred within the Department of Defense and Housing and Urban Development. This is only for the years 1998-2015

For their research, the team used several government websites and made inquiries to multiple U.S. agencies. Much of the time they received no response and the Office of the Inspector General even disabled links to all key documents that revealed unsupported spending, according to the team.

Unfortunately for them, the researchers downloaded and stored the documents, and thus they made their way into the public domain. Regardless, many people still haven’t heard about it.

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The name of the Economist from Michigan State is Mark Skidmore. He was sparked to do something when Catherine Austin Fitts, former assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development (where all the missing money is from, including the D.O.D)  referred to a report that indicated the Army had $6.5 trillion in unsupported adjustments and spending, in the 2015 fiscal year.

Given the Army’s $122 billion budget, that meant unsupported adjustments were 54 times spending authorized by Congress. Typically, such adjustments in public budgets are only a small fraction of authorized spending….Skidmore thought Fitts had made a mistake. “Maybe she meant $6.5 billion and not $6.5 trillion,” he said. “So I found the report myself and sure enough it was $6.5 trillion.” (source)

Fitts was one of the people involved with Skidmore’s research, they worked together, and found documents indicating a total of $20 trillion of undocumented adjustments had been made, from 1998 t0 2015, as mentioned above. The original government documents and a report describing the issue can be found here.)

They also recently provided an update, as when this information went public, the Pentagon claimed that they were going to do an internal audit.

Update As of September 2018

Several months after beginning the audit, recommendations of the Federal Accounting Standards Board were accepted by the government which stopped the process. https://fas.org/sgp/news/2018/07/fasab-review.pdf (see page 3 for a summary).

Fitts explains how “the statement allows government officials to misstate and move funds around to hide expenditures if it is deemed necessary for national security purposes, and the rule applies to all agencies, not just the black budget.” She then shares an excerpt from the report:

This Statement permits modifications that do not affect the net results of operations or net position. In addition, this Statement allows a component reporting entity to be excluded from one reporting entity and consolidated into another reporting entity, and the effect of the modification may change the net results of operations and/or net position.

Fitts then makes another point that needs to be emphasized, one that I’ve been writing about for years, and it’s the fact that only a few people with high-level security clearances have the authority to determine what exactly a national security issue is. These days, there is so much secrecy in our world that ‘national security’ has simply become a term used to justify extreme and unethical secrecy. This secrecy ultimately benefits a select powerful few, and keeps the dollars rolling into their pockets.

No one but these few people would ever know that expenditures on activity A are hiding in a completely different area of government. What good is an independent audit if authorities are allowed to move expenditures around with no transparency? How can one conduct an evaluation of any portion of the federal budget under such an arrangement? How is this policy in compliance with financial reporting laws or Constitutional requirements for reporting on government spending to the citizens of the United States? -Fitts explains.

In a December. 8th 2017 Forbes column, MSUs Skidmore co-authored with Laurence Kotlikoff, Skidmore said the “gargantuan nature” of the undocumented federal spending “should be a great concern to all taxpayers.”

Taken together these reports point to a failure to comply with basic constitutional and legislative requirements for spending and disclosure,” the column concludes. “We urge the House and Senate Budget Committee to initiate immediate investigations of unaccounted federal expenditures as well as the source of their payment.

Our tax dollars and the level to which we are taxed are going towards black budget programs, that cost far more than our roads and services. If this information was made transparent and open for discovery and use, it leaps all of humanity into the stars and beyond into new discovery and exploration. The implications are huge.

Extraterrestrials?

There exists a shadowy government with its own Air Force, its own Navy, its own fundraising mechanism, and the ability to pursue its own ideas of the national interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself. – Senator Daniel Inouye (source)

Fitts has been outspoken on where this money has been going and has stated multiple times that during the investigations and through her work experience within the U.S. Housing and Urban Development sector, ‘Space’ issues were always involved when it came to finding out where this money was going.

It wasn’t long ago when the Pentagon publicly disclosed a ‘UFO ariel threat program’ it had been running, one that cost $22 million. Hal Puthoff, a member of To The Stars Academy, that was involved with this public disclosure from the Pentagon, has stated that it could be one of the multiple programs. You can read more about that here.

This information that was not aggressively disseminated by mainstream media, too much public attention on $21 trillion missing dollars starts to bring up questions about where this money is going.

Having been an avid researcher into the UFO phenomenon for more than a decade, I can tell you that a lot of it is going towards activities in space and other activities that are deemed classified for ‘national security’ purposes. One example I’ve written about before has been the reality of deep underground military bases, and deep under ocean military bases.

Fitts is one of many who has claimed that these black budget operations are being used to build a space economy, and that there is currently a war going on up there. A fight for economic domination between nations of Earth. This doesn’t sound too outlandish when you consider she is one of the multiple credible sources giving this type of interpretation. Sometimes, information like this can be too much for us to handle, at other times it is purposely subjected to ridicule and official smears campaigns to bring less credibility to the topic.

Corporations are currently dominating space. Let’s not forget about Garry Mckinnon, who performed the largest ever military computer hack in human history. This made global headlines, it was too big to conceal, and he gave a telling interview before he was arrested claiming that he found multiple pictures of UFO’s and lists of “off world officers” and “fleet to fleet” transfers. You can see a clip of his interview with Project Camelot’s Kerry Cassidy, here. This interview was conducted before it became public knowledge and before he was arrested for his hack. He hacked into Department of Defence and NASA systems, among others.

The evidence for a clandestine secret space program that is costing tax-payers trillions of dollars is backed up by undeniable evidence, yet it’s shrouded in secrecy, despite the fact that it hides in plain sight.

According to Fitts, we are not alone, this is known, and we too have an ever-growing presence in space. In an interview, she recently did with Dark Journalistshe talks about the Secret Space Program from a historical perspective. She explains how enormous amounts of resources were handed over to covert operations to develop a security system of finance. This then created the CIA and a select group of people who were in charge of UFO technology. “By the time JFK came into office ready to challenge this shadow government and make space program the centrepiece of his administration, the civil war between the Deep State and the public state was in full force.”

Robert Bigelow, CEO of Bigelow Aerospace revealed knowledge of an extraterrestrial earlier this year.

The important thing to remember here is that the UFO phenomenon and extraterrestrial hypothesis have, in my opinion, enormous amounts of credibility and evidence behind them. We’ve been writing about the topic since CE was founded in 2009, you can visit the disclosure section of our website to sift through those articles for more information.

Below is one of the last interviews she did:

A Little More On The Black Budget

Did we really need this leak in order to believe that black budget programs operate in secrecy? No, many people will tell you that the existence of black budget programs was obvious and that we didn’t need any official documentation to prove it, but this still helps. The United States has a history of government agencies existing in secret for years. The National Security Agency (NSA) was founded in 1952, its existence was hidden until the mid-1960’s. Even more secretive is the National Reconnaissance Office, which was founded in 1960 but remained completely secret for 30 years.

We are talking about Special Access Programs (SAP). From these, we have unacknowledged and waived SAPs. These programs do not exist publicly, but they do indeed exist. They are better known as ‘deep black programs.’ A 1997 US Senate report described them as “so sensitive that they are exempt from standard reporting requirements to the Congress.” (source).

The Washington Post revealed that the “black budget” documents report a staggering 52.6 billion dollars that were set aside for operations in the fiscal year 2013. Although it’s great to have this type of documentation in the public domain proving the existence of these black budget programs, the numbers seem to be off according to some statements made by some very prominent people who have been involved in the defence sector for years. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that these programs are not using billions of dollars, but trillions of dollars that are unaccounted for. Here is a statement was given by Canada’s former Minister of National Defence, Paul Hellyer in 2008:

It is ironic that the U.S. would begin a devastating war, allegedly in search of weapons of mass destruction when the most worrisome developments in this field are occurring in your own backyard.  It is ironic that the U.S. should be fighting monstrously expensive wars  allegedly to bring democracy to those countries, when it itself can no longer claim to be called a democracy when trillions, and I mean thousands of billions of dollars have been spent on projects which both congress and the commander in chief no nothing about(source)

Rumsfeld also admitted that 2.8 trillion could not be accounted for. On July 16, 2001, in front of the house appropriations committee, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated:

The financial systems of the department of defence are so snarled up that we can’t account for some $2.6 trillion in transactions that exist, if that’s believable (source)

It turns out he lied, and it was a heck of a lot more, and probably even far greater than $21 trillion dollars…

Yes there have been crashed craft, and bodies recovered.

The Takeaway

The takeaway here is to realize that our world is plagued with secrecy, but at the same time, with so many whistleblowers, leaks and investigations, that secrecy is going away. It’s all there for one to see, it’s not really “secret” as it is simply, unacknowledged. That being said, there is clearly a lot we don’t know including just how far this world of secrecy has advanced. One thing is for certain, it has gone off the planet. We may not know who entirely is involved, but if you follow the money, that’s probably your best bet.

At the end of the day, the lid is being blown off, and secrecy cannot last. New discoveries await the human race, and information that is naturally our birthright to discover has been kept from us in the hands of those who clearly do not have the best interests of humanity at heart. The tides are turning.

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Pfizer & Moderna Fail To Respond To British Medical Journal About COVID Vaccine Safety Concerns

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Associate Editor of the British Medical Journal Dr. Peter Doshi explains that both Pfizer and Moderna did not respond to questions about why bio-distribution studies were not conducted prior to the rollout of their COVID vaccines.

  • Reflect On:

    Are these vaccines actually safe and effective? Why are so many people within the mainstream completely unaware of certain safety concerns and issues being raised with COVID vaccines?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

An article published in the British Medical Journal by Dr. Peter Doshi titled “Covid-19 Vaccines: In The Rush for Regulatory Approval, Do We Need More Data?” raises concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and one of them is the bio-distribution of the vaccine.  This refers to the examination and study of where the vaccine and its ingredients go once injected into the body. Having sped up the approval process of these vaccines, it has been claimed that no compromises in the process of examining their safety were made. But the fact that no study for tracking the distribution of the vaccine within the human body was conducted for any of the authorized vaccines, we cannot say this is true.

Dr. Doshi points out that such bio-distribution studies are a standard practice of drug safety testing but “are usually not required for vaccines.” This in itself is concerning. Research regarding the bio-distribution of aluminum containing vaccines, for example, have raised concerns about injected aluminum crossing the blood brain barrier and being distributed throughout the body where it can be detected years after injection. This is important, because vaccines are a different method of delivery than say, ingested aluminum, which the body does a great job of getting rid of through digestion.

Bio-distribution studies weren’t performed for COVID vaccines because data from past studies performed with related, and “mostly unapproved compounds that use the same platform technology” were used to bypass them.

Dr. Doshi points out that,

“Pfizer and Moderna did not respond to The BMJ’s questions regarding why no biodistribution studies were conducted on their novel mRNA products, and none of the companies, nor the FDA, would say whether new biodistribution studies will be required prior to licensure.”

In his article, Dr. Doshi also references a report that Pfizer provided to the Japanese government. In the report there is a table containing lipid nanoparticle bio-distribution data.

This table shows where their surrogate “vaccine” (i.e. represented in the laboratory test by little bubbles of surrogate fat containing an analytical detection marker) ended up in the body of immunized rats, used in the laboratory as surrogates for humans…I would like to highlight some observations. First…a lot of the surrogate vaccine dose remained at the injection site, as one would expect. Remarkably, however, most of the vaccine dose had gone elsewhere….50-75% of the vaccine dose failed to remain at the site of injection. The big question is, where did it go? Looking at the other tissues shows some of the paces it went and accumulated…The surrogate vaccine was circulating in the blood. There is also evidence that a substantial amount of the vaccine went to places like the spleen, liver, ovaries, adrenal glands, and bone marrow. The vaccine went to other places as well, such as testes, lungs, intestines, kidneys, thyroid glands, pituitary gland, uterus, etc. The surrogate vaccine tested in a laboratory setting was widely distributed throughout the laboratory animal’s bodies. – Dr. Byram W. Bridle, Viral Immunologist, University of Guelph.

The above quote comes from a detailed report Bridle recently released for COVID-19: “A Vaccine Guide For Parents.” One of his main concerns is that the spike protein that our cells manufacture after injection enter into the bloodstream, and that the spike protein itself isn’t harmless. He goes into a detailed explanation in the report cited above.

According to him,

This information is incredibly important because recent data have come to light that the spike protein is “biologically active.” This means that the spike protein is not just an antigen that is recognized the immune system as being foreign. It means that the spike protein, itself, can interact with receptors throughout the body, called ACE2 receptors, potentially causing undesirable effects such as damage to the heart and cardiovascular system, blood clots, bleeding, and neurological effects.

Again, the report is quite detailed and you can access it here if you’re interested. Bridle is not the only one raising these concerns. He, like many other professionals out there, have been subjected to “fact checking” via Facebook third party fact checkers. Here’s a response from PolitiFact regarding Bridle’s claims and the science he points to.

PolitiFact claims that there is no evidence that the spike protein is ‘a toxin.’ They cite opinions from the CDC and other researchers claiming that no evidence has yet emerged stating the spike protein is dangerous. But they are not actually addressing the cited science Bridle is pointing to, they are merely saying everything he is saying is wrong.

This type of baseless ‘fact checking’ has been a problem during the entire pandemic. A recent article published in the British Medical Journal by journalist Laurie Clarke has highlighted the fact that Facebook has already removed at least 16 million pieces of content from its platform and added warnings to approximately 167 million others. YouTube has removed nearly 1 million videos related to, according to them, “dangerous or misleading covid-19 medical information.”

The article explains why fact-checking scientists has been nothing short of censorship of both evidence and educated opinion. This has happened numerous times throughout the pandemic with multiple renowned scientists. I recently wrote about a couple of examples here, and here, if you’d like to dig deeper.

It’s telling when science, evidence and opinions of experts are censored and subjected to ridicule throughout a global event like this. One has to ask: what is the motivation? Does a clear headed society seek to censor?

Any narrative that questions what we are receiving from government, health authorities, and mainstream media have been completely unacknowledged.  Effectively dividing the public on important issues.

Once again, this begs the question, why? You would think it a time like this discussion and evidence would be shared openly and transparently, instead, we’ve seen the exact opposite.

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Houston Methodist Hospital Set To Terminate Unvaccinated Employees

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Houston Methodist Hospital is set to terminate employees who refuse COVID-19 vaccines. As of June 12th, a district Judge has shot down a lawsuit the employees have filed against the the hospital. The employees, led by Jennifer Bridges, are set to file an appeal and are prepared to take the case all the way to the supreme court.

This case will be important to track as this may set the tone for how private companies will approach the ‘mandating’ of vaccines that governments had suggested would not be policy. If people can be fired for refusing a vaccine, is it fair to say these vaccines are truly not mandatory?

 

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Censorship: Facebook Has Removed 16 Million Pieces of Content & Added ‘Warnings’ On 167 Million

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©Andrey Yanevich/123RF.COM

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Journalist Laurie Clarke has published a piece in the British Medical Journal about the censorship of science, and who these Big Tech "fact-checkers" really are.

  • Reflect On:

    Why has there been such an effort to hide information that threatens the accepted narrative we get from the mainstream? What is going on here? How is this legal, moral and ethical?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

The censorship of information is at an all time high, but do people really recognize the extent to which it has been and is being carried out? A recent article published in the British Medical Journal by journalist Laurie Clarke has highlighted the fact that Facebook has already removed at least 16 million pieces of content from its platform and added warnings to approximately 167 million others. YouTube has removed nearly 1 million videos related to, according to them, “dangerous or misleading covid-19 medical information.”

Being an independent media outlet, Collective Evolution has experienced this censorship first hand. We’ve also been in touch with and witnessed many doctors and world renowned scientists be subjected to the same type of treatment from these social media organizations. Not long ago I wrote an article about Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a Harvard professor of medicine who has been having trouble with twitter. I did the same with Dr. Carl Heneghan, a professor of evidence based medicine from Oxford and an emergency GP who wrote an article regarding the efficacy of facemasks in stopping the spread of COVID. His article was not removed, but a label was added to it by Facebook saying it was ‘fake information.’ There are many more examples.

Clarke’s article says, with regards to posts that have been removed and labelled, that,

“while a portion of that content is likely to be wilfully wrongheaded or vindictively misleading, the pandemic is littered with examples of scientific opinion that have been caught in the dragnet.”

This is true, take for example the ‘lab origins of COVID debate.’ Early on in the pandemic you were not even allowed to mention that COVID may have originated in a lab, and if you did, you were punished for doing so. Independent media platforms were demonetized and subjected to changes in algorithms. Now, all of a sudden, the mainstream media is discussing it as a legitimate possibility. It makes no sense.

Laurie Clarke outlines in her piece,

This underscores the difficulty of defining scientific truth, prompting the bigger question of whether social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube should be tasked with this at all…

“I think it’s quite dangerous for scientific content to be labelled as misinformation, just because of the way people might perceive that,” says Sander van der Linden, professor of social psychology in society at Cambridge University, UK. “Even though it might fit under a definition (of misinformation) in a very technical sense, I’m not sure if that’s the right way to describe it more generally because it could lead to greater politicisation of science, which is undesirable.”

This type of “politicization of science” is exactly what’s happened during this pandemic.

Science is being suppressed for political and financial gain. Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health. Politicians and industry are responsible for this opportunistic embezzlement. So too are scientists and health experts. The pandemic has revealed how the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency—a time when it is even more important to safeguard science. – Kamran Abbas is a doctor, executive editor of the British Medical Journal, and the editor of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. (source)

An important point to get across is also the fact that these independent “fact checkers” are working with Facebook, who in turn is working with the government. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden offered his thoughts on the censorship we’ve been seeing during this pandemic in November of last year stating the following,

In secret, these companies had all agreed to work with the U.S. Government far beyond what the law required of them, and that’s what we’re seeing with this new censorship push is really a new direction in the same dynamic. These companies are not obligated by the law to do almost any of what they’re actually doing but they’re going above and beyond, to, in many cases, to increase the depth of their relationship (with the government) and the government’s willingness to avoid trying to regulate them in the context of their desired activities, which is ultimately to dominate the conversation and information space of global society in different ways…They’re trying to make you change your behaviour.

If you’re not comfortable letting the government determine the boundaries of appropriate political speech, why are you begging Mark Zuckerberg to do it?

I think the reality here is…it’s not really about freedom of speech, and it’s not really about protecting people from harm…I think what you see is the internet has become the de facto means of mass communication. That represents influence which represents power, and what we see is we see a whole number of different tribes basically squabbling to try to gain control over this instrument of power.

What we see is an increasing tendency to silence journalists who say things that are in the minority.

It makes you wonder, is this “fact-checking” actually about fact checking? Or is something else going on here?

Below is a breakdown from Clarke’s article illustrating how fact checking works and what the problem is with following the science. Since we have reported this many times over the last 5 years, we decided to let our readers hear it from someone else for a change as it’s truly quite vindicating to see more investigators coming to these conclusions.

How fact checking works

The past decade has seen an arms race between users who peddle disinformation (intentionally designed to mislead) or unwittingly share misinformation (which users don’t realise is false) and the social media platforms that find themselves charged with policing it, whether they want to or not.1

When The BMJ questioned Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (which is owned by Google) they all highlighted their efforts to remove potentially harmful content and to direct users towards authoritative sources of information on covid-19 and vaccines, including the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although their moderation policies differ slightly, the platforms generally remove or reduce the circulation of content that disputes information given by health authorities such as WHO and the CDC or spreads false health claims that are considered harmful, including incorrect information about the dangers of vaccines.

But the pandemic has seen a shifting patchwork of criteria employed by these companies to define the boundaries of misinformation. This has led to some striking U turns: at the beginning of the pandemic, posts saying that masks helped to prevent the spread of covid-19 were labelled “false”; now it’s the opposite, reflecting the changing nature of the academic debate and official recommendations.

Twitter manages its fact checking internally. But Facebook and YouTube rely on partnerships with third party fact checkers, convened under the umbrella of the International Fact-Checking Network—a non-partisan body that certifies other fact checkers, run by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit journalism school in St Petersburg, Florida. Poynter’s top donors include the Charles Koch Institute (a public policy research organisation), the National Endowment for Democracy (a US government agency), and the Omidyar Network (a “philanthropic investment firm”), as well as Google and Facebook. Poynter also owns the Tampa Bay Times newspaper and the high profile fact checker PolitiFact. The Poynter Institute declined The BMJ’s invitation to comment for this article.

For scientific and medical content the International Fact-Checking Network involves little known outfits such as SciCheck, Metafact, and Science Feedback. Health Feedback, a subsidiary of Science Feedback, handpicks scientists to deliver its verdict. Using this method, it labelled as “misleading” a Wall Street Journal opinion article2 predicting that the US would have herd immunity by April 2021, written by Marty Makary, professor of health policy and management at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. This prompted the newspaper to issue a rebuttal headlined “Fact checking Facebook’s fact checkers,” arguing that the rating was “counter-opinion masquerading as fact checking.”3 Makary hadn’t presented his argument as a factual claim, the article said, but had made a projection based on his analysis of the evidence.

A spokesperson for Science Feedback tells The BMJ that, to verify claims, it selects scientists on the basis of “their expertise in the field of the claim/article.” They explain, “Science Feedback editors usually start by searching the relevant academic literature and identifying scientists who have authored articles on related topics or have the necessary expertise to assess the content.”

The organisation then either asks the selected scientists to weigh in directly or collects claims that they’ve made in the media or on social media to reach a verdict. In the case of Makary’s article it identified 20 relevant scientists and received feedback from three.

“Follow the science”

The contentious nature of these decisions is partly down to how social media platforms define the slippery concepts of misinformation versus disinformation. This decision relies on the idea of a scientific consensus. But some scientists say that this smothers heterogeneous opinions, problematically reinforcing a misconception that science is a monolith.

This is encapsulated by what’s become a pandemic slogan: “Follow the science.” David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University, calls this “absolutely awful,” saying that behind closed doors scientists spend the whole time arguing and deeply disagreeing on some fairly fundamental things.

He says: “Science is not out in front telling you what to do; it shouldn’t be. I view it much more as walking along beside you muttering to itself, making comments about what it’s seeing and making some tentative suggestions about what might happen if you take a particular path, but it’s not in charge.”

The term “misinformation” could itself contribute to a flattening of the scientific debate. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, has been criticised for his views on lockdown, which tack closely to his native Sweden’s more relaxed strategy.4 He says that scientists who voice unorthodox opinions during the pandemic are worried about facing “various forms of slander or censoring . . . they say certain things but not other things, because they feel that will be censored by Twitter or YouTube or Facebook.” This worry is compounded by the fear that it may affect grant funding and the ability to publish scientific papers, he tells The BMJ.

The binary idea that scientific assertions are either correct or incorrect has fed into the divisiveness that has characterised the pandemic. Samantha Vanderslott, a health sociologist at the University of Oxford, UK, told Nature, “Calling out fake stories can raise your profile.” In the same article Giovanni Zagni, director of the Italian fact checking website Facta, noted that “you can build a career” on the basis of becoming “a well respected voice that fights against bad information.”5

But this has fed a perverse incentive for scientists to label each other’s positions misinformation or disinformation.6 Van der Linden likens this to how the term “fake news” was weaponised by Donald Trump to silence his critics. He says, “I think you see a bit of the same with the term ‘misinformation,’ when there’s science that you don’t agree with and you label it as misinformation.”

Health Feedback’s website says that it won’t select scientists to verify claims if they’ve undermined their credibility by “propagating misinformation, whether intentionally or not.” In practice, this could create a Kafkaesque situation where scientists are precluded from offering their opinion as part of the fact checking process if they expressed an opinion that Facebook labelled misinformation. Strengthening the echo chamber effect is the fact that Health Feedback sometimes verifies claims by looking at what scientists have said on Twitter or in the media.

Scientific “truth”

Van der Linden says that it’s important for people to understand that in the scientific domain “there’s uncertainty, there’s debate, and it’s about the accumulation of insights over time and revising our opinions as we go along.” Healthy debate helps to separate the wheat from the chaff. Jevin West, associate professor in the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle, says that social media platforms should therefore be “extra careful when it comes to debates involving science.” He explains: “The institution of science has developed these norms and behaviour to be self-corrective. So, for [social media platforms] to step into that conversation, I think it’s problematic.”

Experts who spoke to The BMJ emphasised the near impossibility of distinguishing between a minority scientific opinion and an opinion that’s objectively incorrect (misinformation). Spiegelhalter says that this would constitute a difficult “legalistic judgment about what a reasonable scientific opinion would be . . . I’ve got my own criteria that I use to decide whether I think something is misleading, but I find it very difficult to codify.”

Other scientists worry that, if this approach to scientific misinformation outlives the pandemic, the scientific debate could become worryingly subject to commercial imperatives. Vinay Prasad, associate professor at the University of California San Francisco, argued on the MedPage Today website: “The risk is that the myriad players in biomedicine, from large to small biopharmaceutical and [medical] device firms, will take their concerns to social media and journal companies. On a topic like cancer drugs, a tiny handful of folks critical of a new drug approval may be outnumbered 10:1 by key opinion leaders who work with the company.”7 Thus the majority who speak loudest, most visibly, and with the largest number online, may be judged “correct” by the public—and, as the saying goes, history is written by the victors.

Social media companies are still experimenting with the new raft of measures introduced since last year and may adapt their approach. Van der Linden says that the talks he’s had with Facebook have focused on how the platform could help foster an appreciation of how science works, “to actually direct people to content that educates them about the scientific process, rather than labelling something as true or false.”

This debate is playing out against a wider ideological struggle, where the ideal of “truth” is increasingly placed above “healthy debate.” Kulldorff says: “To remove things in general, I think is a bad idea. Because even if something is wrong, if you remove it there’s no opportunity to discuss it.” For instance, although he favours vaccination in general, people with fears or doubts about the vaccines used should not be silenced in online spaces, he says. “If we don’t have an open debate within science, then that will have enormous consequences for science and society.”

There are concerns that this approach could ultimately undermine trust in public health. In the US, says West, trust in the government and media is falling. He explains, “Science is still one of the more trusted institutions, but if you start tagging and shutting down conversation within science, to me that’s even worse than the actual posting of these individual articles.”

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