Facebook flip-flops on COVID origins, stops censoring Wuhan lab-leak theory posts
MENLO PARK, California, May 28, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Following recent mainstream media reports giving credence to the much maligned theory that COVID-19 was created in a Wuhan laboratory, Facebook has changed its “misinformation” policy and will no longer censor or remove posts which affirm the China lab-leak origin, POLITICO reported.
Back in February, Facebook announced that it was “expanding” its already broad censorship policy to “remove false claims on Facebook and Instagram about COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in general during the pandemic.” Part of the heightened push included removing posts that contained claims deemed to have been “debunked by public health experts,” according to the social media giant.
Following a consultation with the World Health Organization (WHO), Facebook proceeded to enact a policy whereby claims that “COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured” would be deleted, making it virtually impossible for users to share scientific material suggesting that the virus was created in a lab. They also blacklisted claims that “vaccines are not effective at preventing the disease they are meant to protect against; it’s safer to get the disease than to get the vaccine; vaccines are toxic, dangerous or cause autism,” despite any evidence to support those conclusions.
Now, with outlets like the Wall Street Journal and even The White House suggesting that the virus could well have originated in a Wuhan lab, Facebook decided that what was previously regarded as conspiratorial nonsense is not misinformation, after all.
“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 spokesman for the tech giant announced Wednesday. “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.”
Earlier this month, a group of 18 scientists, including prominent immunologists, biologists, and epidemiologists, emphasized the need for more investigations into the beginnings of the coronavirus. “We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spill-overs seriously until we have sufficient data,” the group wrote in a letter to the journal Science.
The scientists said that the WHO, working in conjunction with a group in China, formed a team to investigate the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in May 2020. Six months later, “there were no findings in clear support of either a natural spill-over or a lab accident.” However, “the team assessed a zoonotic spill-over from an intermediate host as ‘likely to very likely,’ and a laboratory incident as ‘extremely unlikely,’” the scientists wrote.
One of the 18-strong group, Dutch computational biologist Professor Erik van Nimwegen told the Telegraph that, despite widespread media reports giving rise to an impression of consensus against the lab-leak theory, “there is no solid scientific basis for such dismissal.”
The possibility of a man-made origin “has hardly been investigated at all — not in the least because relevant information has simply not been made available to the international scientific community,” van Nimwegen said.
Based on the group’s assessment that “greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve,” they suggested that “[a] proper investigation” ought to be launched, taking care to be “transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimize the impact of conflicts of interest.”
The report prompted the WHO to likewise issue a call for further investigation of the lab-leak theory. This, in turn, elicited a response from President Joe Biden, who released a statement of his own on the matter Wednesday, announcing a federal investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
The president explained that “the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) has ‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’” regarding the outbreak of the virus, but has not yet settled on which is more likely. To wit, the IC is undecided on whether the coronavirus “emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”
“I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,” Biden stated. “The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence.”
But before now, numerous public health officials had played down the possibility of a lab-leak genesis of the coronavirus outbreak, with some tarring the proposal as nothing more than a “conspiracy theory.”
A CNN article from May, 2020, described Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) and Chief Medical Adviser to the President, as “crushing” then-President Donald Trump’s theory that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab.
Former White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp linked the above article, commenting simply that the piece “[d]id not age well.”
Did not age well. https://t.co/ouGDOOnpE4— Mercedes Schlapp (@mercedesschlapp) May 27, 2021
Fauci told National Geographic at the time: “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated ... Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.”
CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza commented sardonically, “before we play the game of ‘he said, he said’ remember this: Only one of these two people is a world-renowned infectious disease expert. And it’s not Donald Trump.”
Earlier this month Fauci was confronted by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for his involvement in the origin of the Wuhan virus. Paul drew attention to federal funding streaming through the NIAID and finding its way to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the lab at the heart of the coronavirus crisis.
Paul explained the gain-of-function research being carried out at the lab, a process which he described as “juicing up naturally occurring animal viruses to infect humans.” An investigative report from veteran science journalist Nicholas Wade revealed that Fauci, as head of the NIAID, had authorized funding to a group called the EcoHealth Alliance for five years, between 2014 and 2019. The group’s head, Dr. Peter Daszak, used the money to contract with Dr. Shi Zheng-li, a world-renowned coronavirus scientist who works on bat-based, gain-of-function experimentation, according to Wade’s report.
During the hearing, Fauci denied all connection to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the research carried out by Dr. Zheng-li. “The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” he said.
After the coronavirus outbreak started to make headlines, Daszak — who received NIAID funding for coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology — organized a letter, published in The Lancet in February 2020, categorically dismissing “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” In January 2021, however, a spokesman for Daszak said that the British scientist had penned the letter to protect Chinese scientists who were receiving death threats at the time.
Daszak was invited to be part of a WHO team investigating the origins of the virus that same month, acting as their sole American representative. Given Daszak’s vested interest in gain-of-function work at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, it may be no surprise that the report returned an “extremely unlikely” verdict on the virus originating in the laboratory.
Speculations were raised about the possibility of the virus hailing from a Wuhan laboratory in the early days of coronavirus reporting at LifeSiteNews, particularly through China expert and columnist Steven Mosher.
In January of this year, Tucker Carlson announced that Mosher, whom he interviewed in February 2020, had been “vindicated” in his belief that the China virus did indeed escape “from a lab” after a report on that very hypothesis emerged in New York Magazine.
Mosher wrote in May 2020 that the “high containment” P4 lab in which Zheng-li was working was not safe enough to offset the lack of training and protocols observed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology to merit certification from the WHO. For reference, a bio-safety-level 4 (BSL4) lab is considered necessary for containing highly infective diseases in experimentation, such as gain-of-function on coronaviruses. The Wuhan lab was classified as BSL2, which is roughly equivalent to the “level of safety that you would find in a dentist’s office in America.”
Rutgers University molecular biologist Richard H. Ebright confirmed that, despite the safety issues at the lab, it continued to create “novel chimeric coronaviruses and was assessing their ability to infect human cells and human-ACE2-expressing mice.”