Facebook lifts its ban on content that speculates about the origin of COVID-19 and theories of how it was created.
The Facebook policy shift on Wednesday comes after months of banning content that the social media regarded as misinformation, in relation to the pandemic. “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 told The Hill. “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,” they added.
Last December, Facebook announced it will be removing posts that contained false information about the COVID-19 virus or vaccines for it. Posts containing false claims about “safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects” were added to the list of then banned content. In February, Facebook announced that it expanded the list of “false claims” it would remove from its platforms to include “additional debunked” statements about COVID-19, including one that claims the virus is “man-made or manufactured.”
The claim that the virus is man-made has been around since the beginning of the pandemic, focusing on China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology; the virus initially broke out in Wuhan, China. Even former President Donald Trump pushed the claim that the virus is man made.
The theory gained more traction this week when The Wall Street Journal reported on a U.S. intelligence report citing researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had to be hospitalized with an unspecified illness in November 2019. The World Health Organization issued a report on the origin of the virus in late March that said the pandemic likely started through animal to human transmission.
In recent weeks, the theory that COVID-19 escaped from a laboratory gained traction in Washington, resulting in President Joe Biden ramping up the effort to confirm how the virus originated. “As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China,” Biden said in a statement. “I have also asked that this effort include work by our National Labs and other agencies of our government to augment the Intelligence Community’s efforts. And I have asked the Intelligence Community to keep Congress fully apprised of its work.”