(NEW YORK) – Facebook will no longer remove posts claiming COVID-19 was made by humans in recognition of the renewed debate about the origin of the virus, a company spokesman told ABC News.
“Given the ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer dismiss claims that COVID-19 was man-made from our apps,” a Facebook company spokesman said in a statement. “We continue to work with health professionals to keep pace with the evolution of the pandemic and to update our guidelines regularly as new facts and trends emerge.”
Facebook’s policy change on Wednesday marked a notable reversal of what was recently added to the list of misleading health claims.
In February, Facebook announced that it had added “additional debunked” statements about COVID-19 to its list of “false claims” it would remove from its platforms – including the fact that COVID is “man-made or made” .
In consultation with “leading health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO),” Facebook has changed its policy on misleading COVID-19 information as the pandemic progresses.
The claim that COVID-19 was man-made has been circled almost since the pandemic began, and is centered around China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology in the city where the outbreak was first discovered. Claims that the virus came from the laboratory were often made by former President Donald Trump, although he never presented any evidence.
While claims that the virus was man-made may not necessarily be identical to those made in the laboratory, officials seem inclined to investigate the origins further and are open to further scrutiny of laboratory theory. That theory attracted more attention this week when the Wall Street Journal reported a U.S. intelligence report quoting researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology who were hospitalized in November 2019 with an unspecified disease. ABC News has not independently verified this intelligence report.
President Joe Biden said Wednesday he was ordering US intelligence services to “redouble their efforts” to investigate the origins of COVID-19, including “issues specific to China.” He has asked for a new report to be submitted within 90 days that delves into the origins of the virus, which killed at least 590,000 Americans and nearly 3.5 million people worldwide.
“To date, the US intelligence community has partnered around two likely scenarios, but has not reached a definitive conclusion on the issue,” Biden said in a statement. “Here is their current position: ‘While two elements in the IC tend toward the former and one toward the latter – each with low or moderate confidence – most elements do not believe that there is enough information to evaluate one as more likely than the other. “”
The World Health Organization released a report on the origins of COVID-19 in late March, stating that the pandemic was likely caused by transmission from animals to humans. Investigators, who had been in China for almost a month, decided that a laboratory accident was “extremely unlikely.”
It was the only one of the four scenarios in which the team did not recommend further research to scientists.
Dr. However, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said at the time that more research on the origin of the virus was generally needed and more data was needed. There has been international criticism of China’s lack of access to the WHO in its investigations.
In a statement by the Chinese embassy in the US on Wednesday evening, a spokesman called the idea of a laboratory leak “conspiracy theory” and said “some political forces are fixated on political manipulation and blame”.
“The politicization of tracing, a matter of science, will not only make it difficult to find the origin of the virus, it will also let the ‘political virus’ run free and seriously hamper international cooperation on the pandemic,” the spokesman said. “Out of a sense of responsibility to human health, we support a comprehensive study of all early COVID-19 cases found worldwide and a thorough investigation of some secret bases and biological laboratories around the world. Such studies and investigations need to be complete, transparent, evidence-based and get to the bottom to make everything clear. “
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, was asked at a Senate hearing on Wednesday whether he considered COVID-19 a “natural occurrence.”
“I still believe the most likely scenario was that this was a natural occurrence, but no one knows for 100% for sure,” said Fauci. “And since there is a lot of concern and speculation and nobody knows for sure, I believe we need the kind of investigation that has open transparency and all of the information available that can be made available for review.”
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