Republican US senators have laid into Facebook after the social media site reversed course on comments accusing China of creating the COVID-19 virus.
The Big Tech giant announced on Wednesday that it would no longer take down posts claiming that the deadly virus strain originated in a microbiology lab in Wuhan, China — the site of the first recorded outbreak — and escaped by accident
That came as the Senate unanimously passed a bill demanding that all intelligence on the virus be declassified, and US President Joe Biden ordered intelligence agencies to investigate its source.
"The more we learn, the clearer it is that Communist China played a role in killing millions of people," charged West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito in a statement to the Mail Online, on Thursday, adding: "This is why Big Tech must never be the arbiter of truth".
On Wednesday, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley denounced Facebook's "arrogance" on the issue in a tweet.
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) May 26, 2021
And Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said the Biden administration's probe into the intelligence was "too little, too late".
"Twitter users have never been stopped from sharing stories about the lab theory," Cotton said. "Last September, Chinese virologist Dr Li Meng Yan was suspended. She claimed it was because she'd promoted the theory. Twitter reactivated her account a month later".
He stressed that "While neither Twitter nor YouTube have banned people from discussing the theory, they do both have policies on blocking COVID content that they deem to be 'misleading'."
A World Health Organisation mission to Wuhan in March reported that the laboratory origin claim was "extremely unlikely", favouring the original theory that the strain originated in wild animals — such as bats — sold in Chinese markets as culinary delicacies.
Previous US president Donald Trump has blamed Beijing since the start of the pandemic for the spread of what he called the "China virus" — which he was keen to point out in a brief statement on Tuesday.
"Now everybody is agreeing that I was right when I very early on called Wuhan as the source of COVID-19, sometimes referred to as the China Virus," Trump wrote. "To me it was obvious from the beginning but I was badly criticized, as usual. Now they are all saying 'He was right.' Thank you!"
And Trump's son Donald Jr. ridiculed the government and media for failing to question the narrative on the outbreak's origins.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) May 27, 2021
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) May 26, 2021