The coronavirus pandemic is caused by the SARS-COV 2 virus that was identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. Since the beginning, a natural origin theory has been hypothesized regarding SARS-COV 2. But recently, a Chinese virologist, Li-Meng Yan along with three other virologists has released a paper claiming that the natural origin theory is a hoax and that the coronavirus was instead created in a lab.
Li-Meng Yan claims that she is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Hong Kong School of Public Health. She alleges that she informed the Chinese government of the potential harms of Coronavirus but she was ignored and her work was censored. She also claims that the Chinese government hired people to spread rumors and discredit her work.
She claims that she was in Wuhan to study the ‘pneumonia outbreak’ and came upon information about coronavirus that proves it is a man-made virus. She allegedly tried to contact the WHO and the Chinese authorities regarding the dangers of this virus. However, she was ignored and her safety was compromised and she, along with her team had to flee to the US.
The four virologists claimed that coronavirus is the Chinese Communist Party’s creation. They wrote in their paper, “The laboratory creation of this coronavirus is convenient and can be accomplished in approximately six months”.
The paper that has been published has not received much support from the scientific community with many claiming that there is no basis for the claims made by Yan and her team. Their work is also not peer-reviewed, hence making the paper an unreliable source of information.
Her claims soon gained popularity as they were similar to the theories Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump suggested earlier in May. Her twitter account also gained popularity with upwards of 600,000 social media followers. However, her account has since been suspended by Twitter.
Social media ban on fake news and conspiracy theories
With the rapid spread of coronavirus came the rapid spread of conspiracy theories and unregulated claims of treatments.
Due to this, Twitter, in May, introduced a policy to label posts that contain controversial and misleading information with regards to the coronavirus pandemic with a warning message. Twitter released a statement in their blog, saying that this policy was to ‘”limit the spread of potentially harmful and misleading content’. Yoel Ruth, the head of Twitter site integrity responded to a tweet saying that this policy would, ‘”apply to anyone sharing misleading information that meets the requirement of our policy, including world leaders”.
Facebook, however, already had a similar policy in place since April 2019 for all misleading information posted on its website. With more and more misleading information spreading on Facebook with regards to COVID-19, Facebook has warned its users to not believe information that was labeled by the site as ‘factually inaccurate’. Instagram is another social media app that follows the same policy.
Yan’s twitter account suspended
The claims made by Yan and her team weren’t widely accepted and had no scientific evidence to support them. Yet the tweets made by Yan weren’t just labeled as false news. Instead, her account was suspended on Twitter under the claims that she had ‘violated Twitter’s policy’. Twitter is yet to publish a statement explaining this matter.
The lead author of the paper published, Li-Meng Yan, has since appeared on TV in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. When Carlson asked Yan if she believed the virus was man-made, her response was a simple, ‘Yes’.
Yan and the team claim that they can prove why and how the virus was replicated and created in a laboratory. Although, they haven’t yet published any of this evidence.