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Facebook is rescinding its months-old ban on posts suggesting the coronavirus was created by humans, the social media giant announced Wednesday, as some experts argue the virus’ origins remain unclear and the theory that it escaped from a research lab — an idea still short on concrete evidence — shouldn’t be dismissed yet.
Facebook first barred posts claiming the coronavirus is man-made or manufactured in early February, part of a wider effort to tamp down on misinformation about Covid-19 and common vaccines on its platform.
The company rolled back this policy against speculating on how the virus was created Wednesday evening, citing ongoing probes into the origins of the pandemic.
“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,” Facebook said in a statement on its website.
In the early days of the pandemic, most health experts argued the coronavirus probably originated in animals and then jumped to humans naturally, but a handful of observers — including former President Donald Trump’s allies — floated the possibility that the virus leaked from a laboratory like China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. Some experts dismissed this theory last year and argued there’s little evidence to back it up, but in the last few weeks, a number of scientists and public officials have called for more scrutiny. In a letter in the journal Science two weeks ago, several scientists argued the lab accident hypothesis is still “viable” and deserves to be studied, and President Joe Biden said Wednesday U.S. intelligence agencies haven’t reached a conclusion on the lab accident theory or the animal spillover theory.
Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported multiple staffers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology reported Covid-like symptoms in late 2019, citing U.S. intelligence sources. This doesn’t prove the virus originated in the institute, especially since Covid-19 has some of the same symptoms as other seasonal illnesses, but it raised further questions about the virus’ origin.