Facebook on Wednesday updated its content moderation policy to reflect that it will no longer remove claims from its platforms that say COVID-19 is human-made or manufactured.
The announcement made by the social media giant is in contrast to what it had said in February this year.
Back then, Facebook had said that it had expanded the list of “false claims” to include “additional debunked” statements about COVID-19, including that the virus is “man-made or manufactured.”
Since the pandemic began, Facebook has been regularly making changes to its policies around misleading COVID-19 information following consultations with leading health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO).
“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 updated its blog post about COVID-19 misinformation on 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.”
This comes just days after the Wall Street Journal reported that three researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) were hospitalized in November 2019 with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and other seasonal illnesses.
The report from WSJ has led to renewed interest for further investigation into the pandemic’s origins from scientists and politicians.
In a statement on Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden said he had directed its intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the possibility that it emerged after a laboratory accident.
The U.S. intelligence officials have been asked by Biden to present a report on their findings within 90 days.
“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,” Biden said.
Besides lifting the ban on COVID-19 claims, Facebook also warned that it would take stronger action against people who repeatedly share misinformation on Facebook about COVID-19 and vaccines, climate change, elections, or other topics.
It will also suppress “Pages” which share misinformation as well as show a pop-up warning to its Facebook users.