Republican lawmakers pounced on Facebook after the tech giant suddenly reversed a policy now that President Joe Biden has ordered the intelligence community to review the origins of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Facebook now allows users to claim that COVID-19 may have originated from a lab in Wuhan, China – a complete reversal of its previous policy that banned comments suggesting the disease was man-made.

“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,” Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted.

“The more we learn, the clearer it is that Communist China played a role in killing millions of people,” said West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito in a statement. “This is why Big Tech must never be the arbiter of truth.”

“This is why the Big Tech overlords shouldn’t be involved in fact checking,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted. 

Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs said: “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.”

The blasts come as the lab-leak theory has gone from a notion derided as a conspiracy theory to something viable enough to be examined.

In April last year, Facebook announced that it was imposing limits on “harmful misinformation about COVID-19.” In February, the company announced that it was expanding its crackdown to include claims that the virus was man-made.

But on Wednesday, May 26, Facebook announced the lifting of the ban in a blog post.

“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,” Facebook stated.

“We’re 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.”

Facebook reverses policy on the same day Biden orders probe into COVID-19 origins

The announcement came on the same day Biden ordered his intelligence agencies to launch a probe into whether SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, leaked from a Wuhan lab. Biden asked intelligence agencies to report back within 90 days.

Facebook was accused of showing its true and ugly colors by scrapping its ban on posts debating whether COVID-19 could be man-made only after Biden ordered a probe if the virus came from a Wuhan lab. Nick Clegg, Facebook’s global policy chief, has also been branded “weak” for allowing months of censorship about the topic on the social network.

Tory Member of Parliament (MP) Bob Seely told MailOnline that Facebook’s behavior was “contemptible” and that he hoped the social media platform will now respect free speech rather than “ingratiating” itself with China.

“This is not a conspiracy theory. There is a genuine debate about where the Wuhan virus came from,” Seely said, adding that for Facebook to have shut down that conversation in the first place is “absolutely appalling.”

British Conservative MP Peter Bone also criticized Facebook’s reversal of policy.

“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.”

“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.” 

Former President Donald Trump floated the lab-leak theory at the onset of the pandemic last year, but his claims were met with skepticism from mainstream media.

Sen. Blackburn: Mark Zuckerberg views himself as the arbiter of free speech

Earlier this month, Republican lawmakers also slammed Facebook after its oversight board’s decision to uphold the social network’s ban on Trump – at least for six months. The oversight board, a quasi-court that confers over some of Facebook’s content decisions, did not give a final verdict on Trump’s case.

Trump had been blocked from the social network in January after his comments online allegedly incited the riot at the Capitol Hill.

While the oversight board said that Facebook was justified in suspending Trump at the time because of the risk of further violence, it also said the company needed to revisit its action. The board said Facebook’s move was “a vague, standardless penalty” without defined limits, which needed to be reviewed again for a final decision in six months.

Republican lawmakers have pointed to Trump’s ban by Facebook, Twitter and others as evidence of an anti-conservative campaign by Big Tech companies, calling the decisions a dangerous precedent for censorship of political figures.

Cruz tweeted that the board’s decision was “disgraceful” and warned it could have dangerous ripple effects. “For every liberal celebrating Trump’s social media ban, if the Big Tech oligarchs can muzzle the former president, what’s to stop them from silencing you?” the Texas senator said in his tweet.

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn said in a statement that the move showed that “it’s clear that Mark Zuckerberg views himself as the arbiter of free speech.”

Colorado Rep. Ken Buck and the ranking member of the House antitrust subcommittee accused the oversight board of political bias.

“Facebook made an arbitrary decision based on its political preferences, and the oversight board, organized and funded by Facebook, reaffirmed its decision,” Buck said.

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