Does Mark Zuckerberg know more about the Chinese virus pandemic than Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro?
Neither has a background in medicine, but the answer is probably Bolsonaro, who is nearly thirty years Zuckerberg’s senior, and served a long career in the military, where basic medical training is usually mandatory even for non-medics. Outbreaks of disease, like Yellow Fever and the Zika virus, are more common in tropical, mosquito-prone Brazil than the U.S. Bolsonaro, like other heads of state, also has a Health Ministry, and like other world leaders no doubt receives daily briefings on the coronavirus.
True to Silicon Valley arrogance though, Millennial Mark has decided he is more knowledgeable than Boomer Bolsonaro, and has followed Twitter in banning footage of the Brazilian president talking to his citizens, trying to calm their fears about the coronavirus. Mark Zuckerberg already decides what news you can see, even unilaterally suppressing news that Senators and Congressmen find important if he feels like it — now he decides what world leaders get to say about a pandemic.
Prioritizing health information from official channels through Facebook’s COVID-19 information center may be regarded as prudent, ensuring that vital announcements from officials cut through the noise. But now Zuckerberg, like Jack Dorsey, is deciding that some officials (like Brazil’s head of state!) are less equal than others.
Zuckerberg and Facebook are not medical experts, yet they cannot resist interfering. The owners of telephone networks didn’t try to cure Polio, yet their modern-day equivalents are convinced they can save the world; from so-called fake news, from so-called election interference, and now the Chinese virus.
Yet the tech companies’ attempts to intervene showcase their lack of expertise. Apple recently launched a coronavirus screening tool, which advises users what action to take if they experience symptoms. That sounds like it would be hard to mess up — just ask experts what symptoms to look out for, and convey their advice to users.
However, Apple’s tool suggests you call 911 if you have “extreme difficulty breathing,” “slurred speech” or “difficulty waking up.” So, anyone with a bad hangover should call 911? Even a former employee of Apple Health (per her Twitter bio) had a laugh at Apple’s overkill.
Me: “I have at least one of these symptoms” (“Difficulty waking up” — in fact, everyday 😂) @Apple: “You should call 911”
— Alejandrina G.R. (@alejandrina_gr) March 29, 2020
There are some brilliant medical minds in Silicon Valley, but there is no indication that the owners of smartphone companies and social networks are among them. Helping official messages get through to the public on social networks is surely a good thing, but picking and choosing what officials should be listened to is not. It’s time for Zuckerberg and other social media CEOs to stop trying to save the world, sit back, and let the grown-ups in do their job.
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Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.