This morning AoA posts its evidence, prepared by John Stone, to the House of Commons Select Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into “fake news” which has been published by the committee. The evidence was published by the committee two weeks ago contemporaneously with farcical reports in the Daily Mirror that Vladimir Putin was using the web to undermine the United Kingdom vaccine program. It was also submitted before it came to our attention that Andrew Witty, until earlier this year CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, had been appointed to head a new state body to fast track the approval of pharmaceutical products, one of a row of appointments effectively demolishing all remaining boundaries between the British state and the pharmaceutical industry (and GSK in particular).
Age of Autism  is a United States based web journal founded in 2007 dealing with issues such as autism and vaccine injury, but also with wider issues to do with health and potential environmental harm – and ultimately of civil rights. Since 2008 I have published hundreds of carefully researched, fact based articles on the site , only two of which I have ever taken down - and even in those cases not because of legal challenges. I write as a well-informed citizen and parent, not as a professional. The sources of my information come in the main from government websites, peer reviewed publications, industry websites and mainstream media - only often viewed from a different critical angle or simply just highlighted in a different context.
The view of Age of Autism is that having great bureaucracies working on behalf of governments and corporate interests deciding what is true – or even machines operating algorithms to decide it - is a prospect little different from the world of George Orwell’s 1984. It is troubling in an era when the mainstream media cannot be relied upon to provide reliable information that attention and suspicion is being diverted to other sources on the internet. The internet is presently a chaotic place, but that is infinitely better than the alternative which would be information controlled on behalf of governments and global corporations, which could never be held to account.
The present author remembers visiting a bookshop in East Berlin across Unter den Linden from the gigantic Soviet Embassy in the early 1980s: there were perhaps no more than ten different titles for sale. There were quite a lot of copies of each, although I do not know that anyone wanted to buy them. The East German population was then controlled by the notorious Stasi. Of course, we can have a pseudo pluralistic situation in which hundreds of different websites report from the same agencies but this kind of controlled reality is equally bogus and shallow. Unfortunately, no historical lesson seems to be learnt for very long.
It is, for example, not at all obvious that discussion of the effects of medical interventions should be controlled through government departments or industry public relations agencies such as Science Media Centre and Sense About Science. In 2005 a House of Commons Health Committee report on the influence of the pharmaceutical industry heavily criticised the Department of Health and the MHRA (the medicines licensing authority) for failing to keep any distance from industry , and twelve years later the situation has dramatically deteriorated, not least because the kind of over-sight provided by the 2005 Health Committee has never since been replicated. Perhaps this present committee would do better to inquire into the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on the media, which would at least be lot easier to define than “fake news”.
At issue in this instance is not only freedom of information, but things like informed medical consent, or even consent at all. The possibility of becoming a pharmaceutical dictatorship, is not far off – in some respects already with us. And along with forced medication comes the removal from the public domain of open debate, suppression of information about harms, and a captive market for an indefinitely expanding group of products which citizens then have to pay for through their taxes.