Social media platform Twitter refused to say if it would censor posts that propose the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) leaking from a laboratory. The site’s silence followed social media site Facebook overturning its earlier censorship of the theory after political pressure.
Previously dismissed as “false or misleading,” the lab leak theory recently gained ground after President Joe Biden ordered an investigation on the matter.
The Daily Mail contacted Twitter on May 27 to clarify its stance on the matter, asking if it would allow debate on the lab leak theory on the platform. A spokesman for the Jack Dorsey-helmed social media site reiterated Twitter’s policy of taking action against “false or misleading claims [that posed] a significant risk of harm.”
The same spokesman did not provide a yes or no answer when asked if the lab-leak theory fell under the false or misleading claims category. According to the social media site’s guidelines, it would also take action against users suggesting “malicious or powerful forces” are responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The news outlet’s exchange with Twitter happened a day after British members of parliament (MPs) decried Facebook’s censorship of the theory. MP Peter Bone said: “It does seem to me that Facebook is not an open platform for people to put their views on. [Rather], it is an open platform for people to put their views on – as long as they agree with [the site.] [Its] decisions are based on politics, not on principle.”
Meanwhile, MP Bob Seely dubbed Facebook’s behavior as “contemptible.” He said: “I think [Facebook’s censorship of the lab leak theory] is absolutely contemptible and … [its] commitment to democracy is an incredibly thin veneer over [its] commercial interests. So many Big Tech firms are showing their true and … really ugly colors.” Seely called on Facebook to “re-embrace freedom of speech” instead of “trying to ingratiate [itself] with China.”
Facebook recently announced it would no longer censor content concerning the lab-leak theory. “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,” Facebook stated in a blog post.
Biden administration calls for investigation of lab-leak theory
Following worldwide pressure on China to be more open about the pandemic’s origins, Biden called for a new investigation on the matter. In a May 26 White House statement, he said that he asked the U.S. intelligence community to “redouble [its] efforts to collect and analyze information” toward a “definitive conclusion” within 90 days.
Earlier, his administration shut down a probe led by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the lab-leak theory. (Related: CNN blasts Biden for shutting down probe in to Covid’s Chinese origins.)
China did not take too kindly to Biden’s calls for a new investigation. It accused him of “politicizing” the issue and even called for U.S. laboratories to be scrutinized instead. (Related: Covid-19 is just the beginning as communist China plots new killer viruses.)
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the U.S. of attempting to shift blame away from its own COVID-19 cases and deaths. He suggested that security services may be involved in a cover-up, a sentiment shared by the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. A statement in the Chinese embassy’s website accused Biden of being “fixated on political manipulation and [the] blame game.”
State-run paper Global Times editor Hu Xijin also accused Biden of trying to discredit an investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO) early this year. The global health body’s February 2021 investigation focused on three theories on COVID-19’s origins – all involving animals – but not the lab-leak theory.
WHO fact-finding team leader Dr. Peter Ben Embarek dismissed the lab-leak theory as “very unlikely.” He said that it was “not in the hypotheses that we will suggest for future studies.”
White House Senior COVID-19 Adviser Andy Slavitt said on May 22 that the world needs to “get to the bottom” of the coronavirus’s origins “whatever the answer may be.” He said: “We need a completely transparent process from China, [and] we need the WHO to assist in that matter. We don’t feel like we have that now.”
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