Facebook will no longer remove claims that Covid-19 man-made in Wuhan

The United States is trying to find out the origins of the virus and is looking to China as the culprit.

Belmont Lay | May 28, 2021, 12:34 PM

Facebook says it will no longer remove claims that Covid-19 is man-made or manufactured.

This reversal in policy on May 26 is “in light of ongoing investigations into the origin of Covid-19 and in consultation with public health experts", the platform said.

Biden administration apply pressure

It comes as United States President Joe Biden ordered his intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The possibilities explored include following the trail that might lead to a Chinese laboratory.

This was after months of minimising these claims as a fringe theory.

Pressure on China

The Biden administration is now leading worldwide pressure for China to be more open about the outbreak.

The Wall Street Journal had also reported that three scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalised in late 2019 with symptoms consistent with the virus.

The findings have reinvigorated the debate about the so-called Wuhan lab-leak theory, which was previously dismissed.

The current administration also aims to use the opportunity to press China on alleged obstruction, and on the domestic front, fend off Republican complaints that Biden has not been tough enough on the country with the world's second largest economy.

Report back in 90 days

Biden said he has ordered the intelligence community to find out the virus’ origin and report back in 90 days.

He also revealed that the intelligence community is split between two theories about Covid-19’s origin, and said the review will examine “whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident”.

The focus of late has been on the notion that the virus may have accidentally escaped from the lab, not that it was man-made or purposely released.

Genetic studies of the virus have found flaws in the protein it uses to bind to human cells.

Someone trying to engineer a bioweapon likely would have avoided such shortcomings.

Facebook's allowing different facts at different times

Since the pandemic began at the end of 2019, Facebook has been changing what it allows on the topic and what it bans.

By February 2021, it announced an expanded list for a host of new claims it would be prohibiting, including that Covid-19 was created in a Chinese lab, as well as vaccines are not effective or that they are toxic.

This recent change in policy comes amid increasing pressure in the U.S. to investigate the origins of the pandemic.

One possibility that has been entertained more is that the virus came from a lab.

“In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of Covid-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that Covid-19 is man-made from our apps,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“We’re continuing to work with health experts to keep pace with the evolving nature of the pandemic and regularly update our policies as new facts and trends emerge.”

Top photo via Unsplash