The Big Tech social media giants are having to rethink their policy of censoring anybody who suggests that COVID originated from a lab near Wuhan, rather than through some local chowing down on sweet and sour pangolin testicles. This is because it now seems quite possible, if not probable, that the virus was kindly bestowed upon us by Chinese scientists. I don’t know either way, but I would suggest that a suspicion that the virus was man-made, given the proximity of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, scarcely qualifies as a lunatic conspiracy theory to be banned from public utterance. But that’s what the Big Tech companies decided — almost certainly for political reasons. They did not like Donald Trump making such aspersions, nor his tendency to refer to COVID as ‘Chinese flu’ (because it came from China) and still less ‘Kung flu’.

By and large the major liberal institutions concurred: the utterly hopeless World Health Organization refused to entertain the suggestion that the virus had leaked from the WIV and the major liberal broadcasters in the US scarcely covered the suggestion at all. A couple of leftish American journos were invited into the WIV and marveled at how clean everything was, what nice space suits everyone wore and how people definitely weren’t throwing chunks of COVID out of the windows every few minutes, and thus gave it a clean bill of health. The idea thus got pushed into the conspiracy theory dungeon, a realm of racists and reactionaries. The banning of this idea, that the virus was man-made and leaked from a Chinese lab, was not because it was wrong, necessarily, but because it came from the political right and challenged the liberal view. How kind it is of them, then, to think again.

This perpetual, shameless, censorship on purely political grounds by the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram worries me rather more than our pandemic does, because there seems to be no readily available vaccine for it. If you had thought that Twitter and Facebook’s deliberate suppression of stories regarding Hunter Biden’s lucrative dealings in Ukraine, along with a serving US president’s astonishing removal from all social media sites because they didn’t like what he was saying, was simply the consequence of a peculiarly fraught US election, think again. They are still at it now, even more so. Theories which they do not like because of their political consequences, or provenance, are banned under the heading ‘false news’. It is increasingly the case that ‘false news’ is simply news that liberals do not wish you to hear about. Nor do facts count for very much when these dweebs are deciding what you can and can’t say. Try advancing the strictly scientific point of view regarding the correct gender of a man who has transitioned into being a ‘woman’ — and see how long before you are banned too.

But it is COVID which has given the liberals the greatest scope for their authoritarianism. Quite a lot of what has happened in these past 12 months or so — from the official adulation of the Black Lives Matter movement and soccer players ‘taking a knee’, to the hilarious ‘decolonization’ projects — has happened under the shroud of disease, and therefore not subject to public scrutiny. But it is the disease itself which has provoked the most injurious acts of censorship — which have occurred ever since the pandemic was politicized into a left vs right argument (in other words about 40 seconds after the sinister lab assistant Wu Han started spraying COVID around downtown, or some mug ate a bat’s gizzards).

It is surely not a conspiracy theory nor an expression of ‘false news’ to have one or two doubts about being zapped by a vaccine which has received nothing like the usual longitudinal testing procedures and is, basically, a clever, perhaps brilliant and life-saving, experiment on the entire world. I’d go further and suggest that if you do not have one or two doubts, then you must be a bit thick. By this I do not remotely mean to say that we should all refuse our vaccines — I have had mine and I’m kinda OK, no worse than usual, so far. But in lieu of the usual testing procedures, it would be nice to think that questions raised by worried members of the general public and opinions from scientists which run counter to the apparent majority might be listened to and debated and discussed — you know, the way we do things in a democracy in which freedom of speech and dissenting opinion are not merely tolerated but cherished.

The opposite, though, has happened. Express one or two doubts about the vaccine, perhaps citing the number of people who have died from blood clots as a consequence of receiving it, and Twitter has your card marked. According to its protocol, any comments which ‘make false claims that have been widely debunked’ will be deleted. What, such as a worry that the virus may be man-made? Or — and think back to when the AstraZeneca rollout began — that there may, just may, be a link between the vaccine and blood clots. Denied outright at the time — i.e. ‘widely debunked’ — and now entirely accepted, which is why people under the age of 40 in the UK are being offered alternative jabs.

Meanwhile, leaked emails from Facebook have revealed that it is using an algorithm to censor those who are merely ‘vaccine hesitant’. Amazon had a head start on this: a couple of years ago it pulled from its roster a film called The Greater Good in which a bunch of perfectly respectable scientists question the efficacy of mass vaccination programs. Urged to take ever more censorious action by the left, these companies gladly succumb: it is their equivalent of taking a knee.

We need a law such as the one they are pushing through in Poland right now. If any social media company censors someone for saying anything not prosecutable under state law, they get fined. That would be a start.

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s UK magazine. Subscribe to the World edition here.