Facebook has updated its policies and will no longer take down posts containing claims that COVID-19 is a "man-made or manufactured" virus. The social media giant said the decision was made "in light of ongoing investigations into the origin" of the pathogen and in "consultation with public health experts", although the company did not specify their sources.
"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", Facebook said.
It is unclear what "facts" led Facebook to change its policy of taking down speculations about the artificial origins of the virus, which the platform established on 8 February 2021 citing consultations with "leading health organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO)".
Social Media Double Standards?
Roughly five hours prior to the policy change, US President Joe Biden ordered the intelligence community to produce a report on the origins of the COVID-19 virus in 90 days, revealing that currently agencies are divided on the matter. POTUS' directive to "redouble" efforts in uncovering the truth came in the wake of a report by The Wall Street Journal, which speculated that several Chinese scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology might have contracted the virus in late 2019.
According to the newspaper, the scientists were hospitalised with symptoms consistent with those of coronavirus.
The media thus revitalised the claims largely perpetuated by the Trump administration in 2020 that the pathogen could have been studied at the Wuhan lab and was accidentally leaked from the laboratory with the highest level of biological security. However, unlike Biden, social media responded differently to such claims – Facebook labelled the POTUS' posts as misleading or false, instead of changing the guidelines.
Twitter also labelled claims about the "man-made" origins of COVID-19 as misleading and has not yet announced any changes to this policy. Beijing strongly denied the allegations about the virus purportedly escaping from the Wuhan lab in the past and called the new probe ordered by Biden politically motivated.
"[The US] does not care about facts and truth, nor is it interested in serious scientific origin tracing", Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said
The Trump administration's allegations were investigated by the WHO, which sent a team of scientists to Wuhan in January 2021 in order to find the source of the virus that has already infected nearly 168 million and killed over 3,489,000 people. The investigators from the global health body said it was unlikely that the COVID-19 pathogen originated in the Wuhan lab.
Trump and some members of his administration criticised the conclusions of the WHO's mission and stood firm about their accusations of China being responsible for the virus outbreak.