The intervention of the British Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock (pictured) to censor social media sites follows on similar calls by the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, and the Head of UK National Health Service, Simon Stevens. According to the BBC report:
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock wants new legislation to force social media companies to remove content promoting false information about vaccines.
He said the government is working with internet companies to identify misleading material on jabs, including Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR).
Artificial intelligence programmes could root out bad science.
It seems very unlikely that Hancock understands anything about vaccine data at all, or that he can have been very well advised. As we have seen Dame Sally did poorly when challenged in recent months to make good her claim that we know the MMR vaccine "is safe". The MMR arrived in the UK in 1988, without any significant safety data - no double-blind placebo controlled trials, or anything so exotic - and two brands had to be removed from the market four years after introduction, precipitately by the manufacturers and not by the British government (whose advisers looked blankly on).
When these people talk about misinformation or fake news what they are perhaps really worried about is data sharing: information about what goes on on government committees, what is in the published studies, even what is in the Package Information Leaflets (PILs), which they will not show you. Anything might be more informative than the director of the Vaccine Confidence Project whose BBC television interview we recently excerpted:
Well, I think the main thing is there most incredibly extensive safety around vaccines - the processes that go around vaccines, the reasons there is quite a while between when vaccines are developed and when children actually get them is because the system has become more and more and more robust around safety. Frankly, partly because of the public cry for this, but it has always been that way from a safety perspective because the government frankly is accountable and if it is recommending and requiring in some senses these vaccines in some senses it is not in the interest of the governments or the producer to be recommending something which is going to cause any damage..
And perhaps it would be if the industry was not immune from being sued (effectively if not theoretically in the UK) and the government ever had to answer, but they never do. If an airliner crashes it has to be investigated, if your child crashes it is just one of those things. When I demonstrated to Dame Sally the escalating chaos in our schools, the fact that the cost of autism would soon likely outstrip old-age if it had not already, she had nothing to contribute - to have presided obliviously for nine years over this population catastrophe without noticing anything is a remarkable feat.
As it is the UK National Health Service acts illegally every time a vaccine is administered without showing the patient or their parent the PIL, having the risks of the vaccine pointed out and leaving them space to ask questions, before they give their consent.
Finally, it is good to welcome the moderate comment of Fiona Godlee, editor of British Medical Journal, in response to the Health Minister:
"What you have is a spectrum of people, some for whom its an obvious thing to get their child vaccinated, others at the other end who will never be convinced, and, in the middle, perfectly intelligent, sensible people who are not certain what do and its that group of people we need to treat with respect and provide them with information.
"Social media can be both a positive and a negative thing in that. Clumsy-handed censorship I don't think is the way forward," she said.
John Stone is UK editor of Age of Autism