Sunday, May 30, 2021

'This is why Big Tech must never be the arbiter of truth': Republicans slam 'arrogant' Facebook for thinking it can 'decide where COVID comes from' - as it FINALLY scraps ban on 'man-made virus' posts

Republicans in Congress pounced on Facebook after the tech giant suddenly reversed its its policy of removing posts calling the COVID-19 'man-made' now that President Joe Biden has ordered the intelligence community to review the origins of the coronavirus.   

'The arrogance of @Facebook to decide where and how precisely covid originated, and who should be able to talk about it, is stunning. But sadly typical,' fumed Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Twitter.

'The more we learn, the clearer it is that Communist China played a role in killing millions of people,' said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).

'This is why Big Tech must never be the arbiter of truth,' she said in a statement to

The blasts come as the 'lab leak' proposition has gone from a notion derided as a conspiracy theory to something viable enough that senior government officials are demanding be at least examined.

Ted Cruz tweeted: 'This is why the Big Tech overlords shouldn't be involved in fact checking'.  

Also slamming the company was Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.). 'This was another sorry attempt by Facebook to shut down discussions that didn’t fit its political narrative. Social media platforms should encourage open debate instead of blocking content that offends their political views,' he said. 

The tech giant was already facing political pressure in Congress over its efforts to impose guardrails on false election claims at election time and its privacy practices, as well as its role as a conduit for potential election interference and its overall market power. 

'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,' the company said in a statement Wednesday.

That was a stark turnaround from February, when it came out with a statement on its policy for 'removing more false claims about Covid-19 and vaccines.'

'Following consultations with leading health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), we are expanding the list of false claims we will remove to include additional debunked claims about the coronavirus and vaccines,' it said then.

Since that time, many top scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have said the potential of a lab leak should at least be investigated.

Fauci said at a hearing this week if he still believed the virus was a 'natural occurrence.' 'I still believe that the most likely scenario was that this was a natural occurrence, but no one knows that 100 per cent for sure,' Fauci responded. 

'And since there's a lot of concern, a lot of speculation, and since no one absolutely knows that, I believe we do need the kind of investigation where there's open transparency and all the information that's available to be made available to scrutinize.' 

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) deemed the Biden administration's intel investigation 'too little, too late.' 

'Twitter users have never been stopped from sharing stories about the lab theory. Last September, Chinese virologist Dr. Li Meng Yan was suspended. She claimed it was because she'd promoted the theory. Twitter reactivated her account a month later. While neither Twitter nor YouTube have banned people from discussing the theory, they do both have policies on blocking COVID content that they deem to be 'misleading'. 

Twitter on Thursday told that it wasn't changing its policies on the subject, but a spokesman refused to confirm which stories Twitter deems to be false. YouTube, a which is owned by Google, has said nothing on the subject.'

Facebook was accused of 'showing its true and ugly colors' and smothering free speech to cosy up to China as it scrapped its ban on posts debating whether Covid-19 could be man-made - but only after Joe Biden ordered the CIA to probe if the virus came from a Wuhan lab.

Mark Zuckerberg's global policy chief Nick Clegg, the former British Member of Parliament and Liberal Democrat leader, has also been branded 'feeble' for allowing months of censorship on the social network.

Critics branded Facebook's behavior had been 'contemptible' and begged them to respect free speech rather than 'ingratiating' themselves with states such as China, which has banned the website but remains a $5billion-a-year ad market. 

The criticism spanned to Britain as well. British Conservative Member of Parliament Peter Bone told MailOnline: 'It does seem to me that Facebook is not an open platform for people to put their views on. It is an open platform for people to put their views on as long as they agree with Facebook.

'Their decisions are based on politics not on principle... if it is fashionable with the liberal elite it can go down. If it is liberal elite say it it must be OK, if it's President Trump that says it it must be awful.

'The thing that Trump was saying is exactly the same as Biden is saying, but Trump was according to Facebook not allowed to say that. Whereas everyone loves Biden from Facebook therefore it must be right. It is one rule for one political view and another for another.'

And the liberal media in the US, who lampooned Donald Trump when he said a year ago said he had 'a high degree of confidence' that the virus escaped from a lab, have finally conceded that he may have been right - after a year ridiculing the suggestion. 

Facebook ruled in February it would 'remove' any posts that claimed that coronavirus was 'man-made' or that the virus was 'created by an individual, government or country' - branding it 'misinformation' and a 'debunked claim' that required 'aggressive action' from moderators.

But today the tech giant reversed its ban on its users discussing the theory, just hours after President Biden ordered his intelligence agencies to launch a probe into whether it was man-made after all - and report back in 90 days.  

The tech firm has been accused of bowing to Beijing, liberal media outlets as well as left-wing politicians and commentators, who reacted furiously when then president Donald Trump laid blame for the fast-spreading virus on Beijing, calling it the 'China virus' or 'Kung Flu' and suggesting there was evidence it was borne from a laboratory in Wuhan, the epicentre of the pandemic in early 2020.  

'Social distancing does not help prevent the spread of Covid-19' 

The fundamental principle of social distancing – staying away from other people – is clearly a good way to stop the virus spreading. But scientists and authorities have disagreed on suitable distances.

In the UK the rule is 2 metres (6'6') or 'one metre plus' if someone is wearing a mask or is outdoors or behind a screen. Experts said almost no virus particles could make it through 2m of moving air to infect someone.

But the World Health Organization is less strict and its official guidance on social distancing is to keep people 1m (3'3') apart. Some countries have followed this while others have been more cautious, like Britain.

A study by MIT in Boston found that social distancing indoors could give people a false sense of security and that it wasn't enough on its own to stop the spread of Covid, which is airborne. 

China has reacted furiously to Biden's call for a new investigation into the virus's origins, accusing him of 'politicising' the issue and suggesting that US biolabs should be investigated instead.

Lijian Zhao, foreign ministry spokesman who has been Beijing's point-man in trying to pin blame for the pandemic outside the country's borders, accused the US of trying to shift blame away from its own high Covid case and death counts - and suggested security services may be involved in a cover-up.

Meanwhile Hu Xijin, editor of the state mouthpiece Global Times newspaper, accused Biden of trying to discredit a WHO investigation which concluded that a lab leak is 'unlikely' - though critics have previously blasted that report as a China-centric whitewash.

China's American embassy also hit out, accusing Biden and his security services of being 'fixated on political manipulation and (the) blame game' in a statement on its website.

Earlier this week, Project Veritas claimed that it obtained leaked documents from whistleblowers inside the company which prove that the social network is testing an algorithm that would rate users' comments according to a 'vaccine hesitancy score.'

Those comments which discourage others from taking the vaccine would be demoted, according to the documents obtained by investigators.

After months of minimizing that possibility as a fringe theory, the Biden administration is joining worldwide pressure for China to be more open about the outbreak, aiming to head off GOP complaints the president has not been tough enough as well as to use the opportunity to press China on alleged obstruction.

In another sign of shifting attitudes, the Senate approved two Wuhan lab-related amendments without opposition, attaching them to a largely unrelated bill to increase US investments in innovation.

One of the amendments, from Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, would block US funding of Chinese 'gain of function' research on enhancing the severity or transmissibility of a virus.

Paul has been critical of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious-disease expert, and aggressively questioned him at a recent Senate hearing over the work in China.

The other amendment was from GOP Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and it would prevent any funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Both were approved without roll call votes as part of the broader bill that is still under debate in the Senate.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the White House supports a new World Health Organization investigation in China, but she added that an effective probe 'would require China finally stepping up and allowing access needed to determine the origins.'

Administration officials continue to harbor strong doubts about the lab leak theory.

Rather, they view China's refusal to cooperate in the investigation — particularly on something of such magnitude — as emblematic of other irresponsible actions on the world stage.

Privately, administration officials say the end result, if ever known, won't change anything, but note China's stonewalling is now on display for the world to see.

'Because nobody has identified a virus that's 100 per cent identical to SARS-CoV-2 in any animal, there is still room for researchers to ask about other possibilities.'

Andy Slavitt, Biden's senior adviser for the coronavirus, said Tuesday that the world needs to 'get to the bottom ... whatever the answer may be.'

'We need a completely transparent process from China; we need the WHO to assist in that matter,' Slavitt said. 'We don't feel like we have that now.'

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