Facebook has announced that it will no longer remove posts that claim COVID-19 was man-made as debate grows around the real origin of the disease that has destabilized the world for over a year.
“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 company spokesperson said in a 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.”
Facebook’s announcement on Wednesday, is a reversal from its February declaration that it would remove posts claiming the virus was man-made or manufactured. The tech giant at the time said the decision followed “consultations with leading health organizations, including the World Health Organization” who had “debunked” the claim.
However, Facebook and other social media platforms including Twitter, YouTube have faced pressure from the US Democratic lawmakers to crack down more forcefully on the spread of misinformation about Covid-19 on their platforms, while Republicans have accused the companies of stifling open debate, including discussions on the lab leak theory.
The policy change by Facebook comes amid growing demand for further investigation into the pandemic’s origins in recent days after the Wall Street Journal reported that three researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized in late 2019 with symptoms consistent with the virus. A previous State Department fact sheet noted the researchers had “symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness.”
Also, earlier this month, Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, admitted that he is no longer convinced that the Covid-19 pandemic originated naturally.
“I am not convinced about that, I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened,” Fauci told PolitiFact’s managing editor Katie Sanders.
This week, the US President, Joe Biden said he had directed his national security adviser to develop a report on the virus’ origins, “whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”
In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued report that Covid-19 originating from lab accident was “extremely unlikely.” The WHO investigators spent almost a month China said that the pandemic was likely started through animal to human transmission.
Although the team did not recommend scientists to investigate further, Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at the time that further investigation was needed in general as to the virus’s origin and further data would be needed.
Ifunanya Ikueze is an Engineer, Safety Professional, Writer, Investor, Entrepreneur and Educator.