Last Updated on April 18, 2020
The New York Post, one of the most prestigious print-circulation newspapers in the world, was falsely “fact-checked” by Facebook for a story linking the coronavirus outbreak to a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan.
In February, the New York Post published an opinion piece titled “Don’t buy China’s story: The coronavirus may have leaked from a lab.”
Facebook’s notoriously partisan third-party fact checkers were quick to censor the piece because it did not align with the official coronavirus narrative from the Chinese Communist Party.
Via New York Post:
Way back on Feb. 23, The Post ran an opinion piece by Steven Mosher saying that we couldn’t trust China’s story about the origins of COVID-19. He argued that the virus might — might — have jumped to the human population thanks to errors at a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan, rather than via that city’s now-notorious “wet market.”
The piece was widely read online — until Facebook stepped in.
The social media giant’s “fact checkers” decided this was not a valid opinion. If you tried to share Mosher’s column on Facebook, the social network stuck a “False Information” alert on top, saying that finding was “checked by independent fact-checkers” and preventing your friends from clicking to connect to the original article to see for themselves.
The Post noted several inconsistencies and flaws in the reasoning behind the “fact check.”
And who did this fact checker rely on for their opinion? As reporter Sharyl Attkisson notes, one expert consulted had a clear conflict of interest: She has regularly worked with Wuhan’s researchers, and even done her own experiments there. Danielle E. Anderson, assistant professor, Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, personally attested to the lab’s “strict control and containment measures.”
Anderson did admit, however, that Mosher was correct when he mentioned that SARS did twice escape a Beijing research lab in 2004.
The other expert who weighed in noted in her objection: “Any responsible government would strengthen safety and security procedures in high-containment labs that will and should be working with the novel coronavirus to develop countermeasures and diagnostics.”
Well, yes, any responsible government would.
Because these medical researchers took offense that someone would question the Wuhan lab’s protocols, Facebook decided you weren’t allowed to speculate online.
Since February, more and more mainstream sources in the media and the State Department have provided corroborating evidence to the theory that the virus originated in a laboratory rather than a wet market.
The New York says Facebook did remove its false “fact check” until this Friday, and provided no apology for censoring a well-sourced piece from a highly credible outlet.
Facebook’s fact-checkers have come under fire for highly questionable instances of censorship before.
In January, Facebook-partnered website Lead Stories censored a story from National File on a job listing for the United Nations’ Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration program, and demanded that National File change the story to claim the job listing was solely for a post in Africa in order to have the “fact check” lifted.
National File rebutted the fact check after our reporting obtained a direct quote from the United Nations that confirmed the veracity of the original story, and the article was removed from Facebook’s block list.