Evidence about Masks Not Working Purged from Internet?

ER Editor: For convenience, we’ve got the links to the two reviews on masks, by Dr. John Hardie and Dr. Denis Rancourt (follow him on Twitter) right here:

and

See also Off-Guardian’s relevant piece, Coronavirus Fact-Check #6: Does wearing a mask do anything?

Kudos to Off-Guardian for being alert as ever. 

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Is evidence masks don’t work being purged from the internet? At least two studies have been removed from websites, with very little explanation given.

KIT KNIGHTLY

The dentistry journal Oral Health Group has removed a research paper from its website which found masks do not work to halt the spread of disease. They claim the paper is “no longer relevant in the current climate”.

The article – “Why Face Masks Don’t Work: A Revealing Review” – has been used as a source before by us before (see here), and was a great collation of all the research studies done on the effectiveness of masks as a disease prevention tool. In general, it found the evidence suggested that masks have little to no value as infection preventatives.

Image credit: Jialun Deng

The author, John Hardie (BDS, MSc, PhD, FRCDC), is a 30-year veteran of dental practice, specialising in infection control. The paper had over 30 references and sources from academic journals and peer-reviewed studies.

It’s hard to say exactly when the article was taken down, but the Wayback Machine shows it to be intact on 25th of June, simply missing from July 2nd-9th, and replaced with the current statement on July 10th.

Fortunately once something is on the internet it is there forever, and you can view an archived version of the article here.

The statement itself is worth reading, not for what it says so much as what it doesn’t say:

If you are looking for “Why Face Masks Don’t Work: A Revealing Review” by John Hardie, BDS, MSc, PhD, FRCDC, it has been removed. The content was published in 2016 and is no longer relevant in our current climate.

Note it doesn’t say the work was “inaccurate” or “factually incorrect”, only that it is “no longer relevant in our current climate”. It also doesn’t say if it was taken down at the author’s request, or that he has formally repudiated his work.

This is not the first time evidence that masks don’t work has been removed from the internet.

Dr. Denis Rancourt put together an evidentiary review titled “Masks Don’t Work: A review of science relevant to COVID-19 social policy” back in April. It received over 400,000 views on ResearchGate before being removed.

The justification for the removal was that it was “spreading information which may cause harm”.

Again, note the language. Not “false information” or “factually incorrect information,” only “information which may cause harm”. Nobody (thus far) is disputing the method of the work, or the accuracy of the findings.

If thorough research “may cause you harm”, what does that really say about you? If truth doesn’t fit the “current climate”…what does that say about our climate?

This is an interesting situation, one that bears further investigation.

We have contacted the Oral Health Group editorial team for comment, and will update if/when they reply. We are also seeking contact information for Dr John Hardie.

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Original article

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