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Facebook will no longer remove claims that COVID-19 is man-made

May 27, 2021, 4:49 PM UTC

Facebook is once again allowing debates about whether COVID-19 was a man-made virus.

The social media site has lifted its ban on claims that the cause of the global pandemic was created in a lab, as questions about the origin of the virus have become more pronounced in the past week.

“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 from our apps,” Facebook said in a blog post. “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.”

The news, announced late Wednesday, comes as President Biden ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to investigate the virus’s origins after a group of 18 respected scientists called for a deeper look at how COVID emerged. China has denied the virus originated in or escaped from one of its labs and the World Health Organization said it was “very unlikely” COVID-19’s origins were in a lab. But external scientists argued the WHO had not received sufficient access and data to fully evaluate the possibility of a lab leak.

Facebook’s action ends a nearly four-month ban on claims that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured. The initial ban was part of a campaign by the company to remove false claims.

While Facebook says it is opening up the discussion more about the origins of COVID, it’s still planning to take action against accounts that share misinformation.

Individuals who repeatedly post stories with debunked data on their page will face penalties, including a reduction of the distribution of their posts. Pages that regularly share fake news will show a warning pop-up to visitors that reads, “This page has repeatedly shared false information,” while giving them the opportunity to navigate away.

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