Facebook will no longer take down posts claiming that Covid-19 was man-made or manufactured, a company spokesperson told POLITICO on Wednesday, a move that acknowledges the renewed debate about the virus’ origins.
Cristiano Lima wrote that after the Wall Street Journal reported that 3 scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized in late 2019 with symptoms consistent with the virus. The findings have reinvigorated the debate about the so-called Wuhan lab-leak theory, once dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theory.
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he has ordered the intelligence community to “redouble” its efforts to find out the virus’ origin and report back in 90 days.
Biden 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.” Bipartisan support is also building on Capitol Hill for a congressional inquiry.
And Facebook announced in February that it had expanded the list of misleading health claims that it would remove from its platforms to include those that confirm that “Covid-19” is man-made.
The tech giant has updated its policies against false and misleading coronavirus information, including a list of false allegations, in consultation with global health officials.
But a Facebook spokesperson said on Wednesday in an emailed statement, “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.”
“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,” he added.
Other platforms, including Twitter, have said that misleading claims about the roots of the virus may violate its policies as well, but Facebook’s move marks the first major sign that prominent social media companies are reconsidering those rules as the Wuhan laboratory leak theory gains more attention.