Facebook will no longer remove posts claiming COVID-19 is ‘man-made,’ as Biden calls for a new intelligence report into the virus’ origins

MZ   Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD:AFP via Getty Images
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

  • Facebook will no longer remove posts that claim COVID-19 was “man-made.”
  • President Joe Biden has asked for a new report into COVID-19 ‘s origins.
  • The dominant theory is the virus passed from bats to humans through an intermediary animal.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook will no longer remove posts claiming that COVID-19 is a “man-made” virus, it said Wednesday.

In February, the tech giant said it would take down “debunked” claims that COVID-19 was created by people, but it has reversed its policy amid renewed interest in the virus’ origins from scientists and politicians.

“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 Insider in an emailed 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.”

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he had asked the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” to find a definitive answer to the virus’ origins. He gave investigators 90 days to report back.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that three scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) – which studies coronaviruses in bats – were hospitalized in November 2019 with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and other seasonal illnesses. The report cited a US intelligence report viewed by The Journal.

The first documented cases of COVID-19 were in Wuhan, a city in central China, in December 2019. So far, the dominant theory has been that the virus passed from bats to humans through an intermediary animal host. But some still question whether the virus escaped from the WIV in an accidental lab leak.

Claims that COVID-19 is “man-made,” or was created deliberately as a bioweapon, are very different to the lab-leak theory. These claims will now be allowed to circulate on Facebook.

A World Health Organization (WHO) report released in March said that the lab-leak theory was “considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway,” but it could not rule it out.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said at the time that he did “not believe the assessment was extensive enough,” and that the team behind the report faced difficulties in accessing valuable data from the WIV.

Many scientists still believe that a spillover from animals to humans is the most plausible explanation – three-quarters of emerging infectious diseases come from other species, and the COVID-19 virus shares a lot of its genetic code with other coronaviruses in the region.

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