Facebook’s “independent fact-checkers” relied on a letter led by a major financier of the Wuhan Institute of Virology to “debunk” articles examining the possibility that the COVID-19 pandemic was caused by a leak from the laboratory, it has emerged.
For nearly a year, Facebook censored articles on the lab leak theory, labeling them “false information” and punishing news publishers by limiting their reach on the platform, before the social media giant sheepishly changed course last month.
Facebook relies on third-party fact-checkers to ‘debunk’ false claims, and in the case of the lab leak theory, a February article from Facebook partner Science feedback played a key role in the censorship of the social media site.
The article, which purported to “debunk” a New York Post opinion column questioning China’s denials of a lab leak scenario, prominently quoted a letter to The Lancet, a leading medical journal, and signed by “27 leading public health experts.”
It has now emerged that the Lancet letter, which played a key role in quelling the early debate about the origins of the pandemic, was not only signed but also organized by Dr. Peter Daszak, whose group funded controversial job gain research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
The article used by Facebook to “debunk” the lab leak theory quoted Peter Daszak’s Lancet letter. He can be seen above at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2020
Based on the Science Feedback article citing the Lancet letter, Facebook has been quick to respond to articles exploring lab leak theory, including this February 2020 op-ed.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg can be seen above. His company faces criticism after reversing nearly year-long ban on posts suggesting COVID originated in a lab
While no definitive evidence has emerged to show whether COVID-19 leaked from a lab or passed directly from an animal to humans, more and more evidence in support of the lab leak theory has emerged in recent weeks — after academics it as impossible for more than a year.
It is now clear that many of the leading experts on emerging coronavirus threats, who rushed to dismiss the lab leak theory early in the pandemic, may have been in conflict, fearing confirmation of a leak would close virology labs around the world and their precious cash flow.
Few, however, played more of a role in quelling the debate than Daszak, the British-born founder of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, which takes in millions of American taxpayers and distributes them to facilities that conduct job gain research, including WIV. .
Gain-of-function research is a controversial field in which dangerous viruses are collected and genetically modified to be more deadly, to study the risks of future outbreaks.
Emails since released via public record requests reveal that Daszak secretly staged February 19, 2020 lancet letter, which brought about a veneer of “scientific consensus” and destroyed the debate.
The Science Feedback article (excerpt above) prominently quoted the Lancet letter that Daszak secretly organized to destroy theories that COVID-19 had escaped from a lab
It could have serious consequences for news publishers if they are labeled as false information by Facebook
Controversial gain-of-function research increases the infectivity of pathogens and makes them more deadly
Functional gain is controversial research in which the infectivity and lethality of a pathogen is increased.
PROS SAY: It helps researchers spot potential threats to human health and allows them to devise ways to tackle a new virus.
dr. Fauci has advocated gain-of-function research in the past, including a 2011 op-ed he co-authored promoting it as a means of studying flu viruses.
CRITICS SAY: It’s a risky business that puts people’s lives at risk.
In 2014, the US government halted new funding of gain-of-function research on flu, MERS and SARS to allay concerns about risks and benefits.
The break was supported by more than 300 scientists, called the Cambridge Working Group.
In December 2017, the US government lifted the pause and announced a new framework called Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight to evaluate whether funding should be provided.
Research into “enhanced potential pandemic pathogens” would be allowed if it was “essential to protecting global health and safety.”
The review process is highly classified and reviewer names or details of the experiments are not released.
Daszak urged colleagues involved in gain-of-function research not to sign the letter, to cover up the connection, saying, “We’ll then release it in a way that doesn’t link back to our collaboration.” , so that we maximize an independent voice.’
Based on the Science Feedback article citing the Lancet letter, Facebook has been quick to respond to articles exploring the lab leak theory, including a Feb. 23, 2020 op-ed for the New York Post by Steven Mosher.
“The piece was widely read online – until Facebook stepped in,” the Post’s editors said wrote of the incident.
Facebook quickly reduced the spread of the article and put a “false information” label on top of it, along with a link to the Science Feedback post “debunking” the lab leak theory.
For news publishers, being labeled as false information by Facebook can have serious consequences.
Facebook severely restricts the distribution of articles it sees as debunked and pushes them way down in the news feed, if they appear at all.
Anyone who tries to share a ‘debunked’ article on the social media site will see loud warnings that they are spreading ‘false information’.
While Facebook’s system of “strikes” against a publisher is opaque, a news organization that repeatedly publishes articles deemed false information could see the reach of all their articles diminished.
Publishers may also see warning labels burnt on their Facebook pages if the company repeatedly posts false information on their posts.
Facebook did not immediately respond to questions from DailyMail.com on Saturday morning about its fact-checking procedures and Daszak’s role in its early findings reviewing theories about the origins of the pandemic.
Daszak declined to answer questions from DailyMail.com reporters who visited his home on Friday, instead warning them to “leave the area and never come back” and call the police.
Daszak has also not yet responded to a list of 34 questions about his involvement in the Wuhan lab that the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent him in April, despite a May 17 deadline to respond.
Publishers may see warning labels on their Facebook pages if the company repeatedly posts false information
Daszak refused to answer questions from DailyMail.com reporters who visited his home on Friday, instead warning them to “leave the area and never come back” and call the police
In its April 16 letter, the congressional committee asked Daszak to provide details about what federal funds have been passed to the WIV, what information they have about lab-worked bat viruses closely related to Covid-19, and what his charity knows. from a mysterious database of virus genomes owned by the lab that was taken offline in 2019.
The letter asked a total of 34 questions and gave a deadline of May 17, 2021 – but has still not received an answer, a source close to the committee told DailyMail.com.
‘Total silence. They seem to refuse to acknowledge anything from us,” the source said.
After more than a year of censorship debate over the lab leak theory, Facebook turned off course in late May, when President Joe Biden revealed that elements of the intelligence community view the origin of the lab leak as a likely scenario.
“In light of ongoing investigations 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 manufactured from our apps” Facebook said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with health experts to keep pace with the changing nature of the pandemic and update our policies regularly as new facts and trends emerge.”