With uncertainty still around the exact origins of COVID-19, some social media companies and fact checkers have had to reverse the earlier position to accept that widely held beliefs are prematurely treated as fact. I went.

An explosive series of reported features published in late May and early June documented the shift between social media companies and fact checkers as the Wuhan Lab leak theory, once dismissed as a far-right conspiracy theory was given, was added back to the public discourse.

with the start of the innings a declaration From President Joe Biden on May 26. Biden said US intelligence officials narrowed their understanding of the COVID-19 origin story to two possible paths: animal-to-human transmission of the virus, and the possibility that the virus may have escaped from a laboratory. Before it started spreading in Wuhan, China. Biden said intelligence officials “have not reached a definite conclusion” between the two scenarios.

The lab leak theory was discussed in the early days of the virus outbreak but was quickly dismissed. The general politicization of the pandemic – which includes former President Donald Trump’s embrace of the laboratory leak theory – combined with the actual effects of the virus on human populations to avoid the appearance of spreading or tolerating it has been widely used on public figures and media outlets alike. pressure increased. wrong information.

A paper signed by 27 scientists that was published by leading medical journal The Lancet in February 2020 denounced theories about the origin of the virus as separate from natural evolution, pushing the laboratory leak theory into conspiracy territory.

President Joe Biden said last month that US intelligence officials “have not reached a definite conclusion” about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the photo above, security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, as members of a World Health Organization (WHO) team investigate the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, of the Institute in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province make a visit. On 3 February 2021.
Hector Retamal/AFPFP via Getty Images

as Granthshala As previously reported, major media outlets including the new York Times, Washington Post, CNN and NPR published articles in early 2020 treating discussions of the lab leak theory as a source of false and conspiracy-promoting material.

In recent times, several media outlets have published research-driven articles, explainers and opinion pieces that examine laboratory leak theory and its path through public discourse, assessing various misconceptions and corrections along the way.

Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, was the first social media company to announce a change in policy following Biden’s announcement on May 26. The Associated Press, a social media giant Reported in February that it was expanding its action to combat the spread of COVID-19 misinformation, and said it would stop removing material that suggested the virus came from a laboratory rather than through human-animal transmission.

“In light of the ongoing investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove claims that COVID-19 is man-made or created from our app,” said Guy Rosen, Facebook’s Vice President of Integrity said in a statement. “We are 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.”

AP. In form of famous In its coverage of Facebook’s reversal of policy, decisions about what content to remove are difficult and have been largely avoided by social media companies, many of which offer fact-checking articles on their platforms when controversial topics arise. I like it. But the pandemic, coupled with the 2020 presidential election season, prompted some social media companies to make such editorial decisions, with many saying they did so in keeping with public health guidance.

After Facebook announced a change in its policy, Politico reported that Twitter did not have a policy update of its own to announce, a response that a company spokesperson reiterated. Granthshala When reached for comment.

“We continue to take enforcement action on content and accounts that advance false or misleading claims about COVID-19 and may pose a significant risk of harm,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. Granthshala. “We do this work in close consultation with global public health officials, and we will continue to collaborate with public health experts to help people find authoritative, reliable information about COVID-19, especially as the world spreads. The epidemic is developing in the world.”

Facebook COVID-19 Misinformation Policy
In this photo illustration, a smartphone screen displays a new policy on COVID-19 misinformation with a Facebook website in the background on May 27 in Arlington, Virginia.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images

However, Twitter continues to label content violating its misinformation policy, which the company doubled down on with its introduction this spring. a strike system Which primarily targets the spread of vaccine misinformation.

Despite Twitter’s official misinformation policies, the platform was instrumental in discussions between members of the decentralized Radical Autonomous Search team investigating COVID-19.gruesome), a group of “Twitter spies” determined to solve the “riddle” of the virus’s origins.

An anonymous member of DRASTIC, known as “The Seeker” on Twitter, recently walked Granthshala Through this The group’s efforts to find academic papers and other clues to where and how the virus began to spread, many of which prompted them to seriously consider the laboratory leak theory. There are long threads exploring this principle still accessible on Twitter, and DRASTIC has saved many of those discussions on its website.

But the seeker told Granthshala His Reddit account was permanently suspended after he posted a link to a Medium article questioning whether COVID-19 was created through genetic mixing in a lab.

last spring, reddit administrator Alerted moderators that they may contact the company’s investigative team to flag “a piece of misinformation, or an account that is behaving suspiciously,” the option that Reddit is extending to the end of April 2020 for all users. Reddit spokesperson told Granthshala Posts may be removed if determined to be misleading about public health in violation of the Platform’s Content Policy.

Other social networking companies have been careful to acknowledge the shifting nature of virus origin interactions when handling questions about user content. According to YouTube spokeswoman Elena Hernandez, the company aligns its misinformation policy with advice from local and global health experts, but does not outlaw content dealing with the origins of the virus because those details remain untenable.

“Since there is no consensus on this topic, our policies do not cover virus origin claims, and this type of content is not infringing on YouTube,” Hernandez explained. Granthshala.

Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan
This photo taken on April 15, 2020 shows blockades at the closed Huanan Seafood Market where the coronavirus is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province.
Hector Retamal/AFPFP via Getty Images

On LinkedIn, users were widely discouraged from sharing content that deviated from public health guidance.

“We are clear that misinformation or disinformation is not allowed on LinkedIn,” a LinkedIn statement shared with Granthshala said. “If it is verified as false information by our teams, fact checkers or reputable media, we remove it.”

However, the company said it allowed discussion of opinions on topics related to the pandemic, as long as those opinions were not framed as fact. Examples of such discussions, including some Lab Leaks on Theory, currently available on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s statement continued, “It is welcome not to discuss ideas or share constructively disagreeing, but confirmed misinformation, as long as they do not violate our policies in any other way.”

Pinterest told Granthshala It removes misleading content and, like LinkedIn, does not allow users to post content that masquerades as fact.

“We remove or limit the distribution of any false or misleading content that could harm the good, safety or trust of pinners or the public,” a Pinterest spokesperson said. Granthshala. “This includes medically unsupported health claims that put public health and safety at risk, such as false treatment promotion, anti-vaccination material, or false information about public health or safety emergencies.”

Pinterest said posts specifically about the lab leak theory will continue to be handled with care until investigators can determine how the virus began to spread.

wuhan institute of virology
This aerial view shows the P4 laboratory (C) on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on May 27, 2020.
Hector Retamal/AFPFP via Getty Images

“Currently, official sources are concluding that the Wuhan lab leak is a theory and has not been confirmed,” a Pinterest spokesperson said. “As such, we will continue to remove material that definitively claims COVID-19 was leaked from a laboratory until the investigation is over.”

While social media companies struggled with the decision of what posts to allow, who to flag, and what fact checking to add, fact checkers themselves have faced a changing landscape with the belief that humans Beliefs about how the virus spread in the U.S. have changed significantly. As a Recent Vanity Fair Article There were several political factors at work in the documented, initial pandemic narrative that simultaneously surfaced in the national and international media.

Some fact-checking teams quickly took declarative positions on the COVID-19 origins debate, demanding clear answers for readers about where scientists stood amid changing political discourse. A few days after Biden…