Censorship Doesn’t Just Stifle Speech—It Can Spread Disease
August 24, 2013 7:20 AM Subscribe
posted by jeffburdges (13 comments total)
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The Saudi Arabian government has been tight-lipped about the spread of Middle East respiratory syndrome
(MERS), a disease first discovered in 2012 that has "killed more than half of those who contracted it"
, "responding slowly to requests for information and preventing outside researchers from publishing their findings about the syndrome."After SARS, no one thought that it would happen again. In 2005 the 194 nations that vote in WHO‘s governing body promised not to conceal outbreaks.
And beyond that promise, public-health researchers have believed that Internet chatter—patterns of online discussion about disease—would undercut any attempts at secrecy. But they’ve been disappointed to see that their web-scraping tools have picked up remarkably little from the Middle East: While Saudi residents certainly use the Internet, what they can access is stifled, and what they are willing to say appears muted."
"While we wait to see the full extent of MERS, the one thing the world can do is to relearn the lesson of SARS: Just as diseases will always cross borders, governments will always try to evade blame. That problem can’t be solved with better devices or through a more sophisticated public-health dragnet.
The solution lies in something public health has failed to accomplish despite centuries of trying: persuading governments that transparency needs to trump concerns about their own reputations. Information can outrun our deadly new diseases, but only if it’s allowed to spread."