- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 27, 2021

Facebook has removed its ban on posts about COVID-19’s origin being man-made or manufactured in a Chinese lab, which the social media giant previously said was a “debunked claim.”

The social network began deleting claims about COVID-19’s origins as man-made in February but decided to change its policy on Wednesday.

“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 or manufactured from our apps,” Facebook said on its blog. “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.”

While Facebook did not explain which investigations prompted the company to change its ban, its reversal came after President Biden on Wednesday called for the intelligence community to dig into the origins of the coronavirus and produce a report in three months.

While Facebook did not explain which investigations prompted the company to change its ban, its reversal came after President Biden on Wednesday called for the intelligence community to dig into the origins of the coronavirus and produce a report in three months.



Whether the virus that has killed more than 590,000 people in the U.S. resulted from natural events in the animal kingdom or something more nefarious has been gaining more attention, especially as the worst of the pandemic subsides in the U.S. amid the vaccine rollout.

The notion of a lab mishap has gained mainstream credence of late, particularly after reports that researchers at a virology lab in Wuhan, where COVID-19 originated, got so sick in November 2019 with coronavirus-like symptoms that they were hospitalized.

Facebook’s attention to Mr. Biden’s inquiries about COVID-19 stand in contrast to its approach to former President Donald Trump, who remains banned from Facebook platforms.

Mr. Trump and GOP allies repeatedly pointed to the possibility of a Chinese lab leak but were often ridiculed as conspiracy theorists. Mr. Trump said the WHO was too weak on China to get a real answer.

Before Facebook’s decision became public, Mr. Trump celebrated renewed interest in COVID-19’s origin.

“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,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “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!”

L. Brent Bozell III, founder of the conservative Media Research Center, said Facebook’s decision was essentially an admission that the company had spread misinformation.

“We now have proof that Facebook’s fact-checker program actively suppressed valid debate about the origins of COVID and instead promoted Chinese propaganda,” Mr. Bozell said in a statement on Thursday. “Facebook must end their fraudulent fact-check program now that we know how dangerous it is.”

Facebook’s reversal does not necessarily mean users’ posts about the COVID-19’s potentially manufactured origins will become much more visible. The company is no longer deleting users’ posts, but Facebook previously pledged to promote search results on its platform that it deems “authoritative” and relevant.

In February, Facebook said it would begin demoting political content across the board with exemptions for content from official government sources and about the coronavirus.. 

Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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