Facebook made some notable changes to its disinformation policies this week, including the news that the company will now allow claims that Covid was created by humans – a theory that contradicts the previously prevailing assumption that humans have caught the virus naturally from animals.
“In light of the 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 of human origin from our applications,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We continue 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.”
The company is adjusting its rules on pandemic disinformation in light of international investigations legitimizing the theory that the virus could have escaped a laboratory. While this theory clearly has enough credibility to be investigated at this point, it is often interspersed with patently bogus misinformation about bogus cures, the 5G rounds causing Covid, and more recently the false claim that the AstraZeneca vaccine implants recipients with a Bluetooth chip.
Earlier this week, President Biden commissioned a multi-agency intelligence report assessing whether the virus could have accidentally escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China. Biden called this possibility one of two “probable scenarios.”
“… Shortly after I became president, in March, my national security adviser tasked the intelligence community to prepare a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of COVID-19, including whether it has emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident, ”Biden said in an official White House statement, adding that there was insufficient evidence to make a final decision.
Claims that the virus was created by humans or in the laboratory have circulated widely since the early days of the pandemic, although the scientific community has widely argued that the virus likely passed from an infected animal to a human through natural means. But many questions remain about the origins of the virus, and the United States has yet to rule out the possibility that the virus has come out of a Chinese lab – a scenario that would be a bombshell for international relations.
Ahead of Covid’s policy change, Facebook announced that it would finally implement tougher sanctions against people who repeatedly peddle disinformation. The company will now limit the scope of the news feed of all account posts that usually share known misinformation, the restrictions it previously put in place for pages, groups, Instagram accounts and websites that repeatedly break the same rules.