Twitter flags China government spokesperson’s tweet on virus origin

Beijing, May 29 (efe-epa).- Twitter has flagged a tweet with a fact-check icon posted by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson that suggested that the United States military may have been responsible for the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

The blue exclamation mark initiated to ramp up fact-checking of tweets directs users to a page providing verified information.

In the case of the Mar.12 tweet by Lijan Zhao, the fact-check icon redirects users to another page on the World Health Organization explaining that studies indicate the new coronavirus may have originated in animals and was not created in a laboratory.

Zhao’s comment had led the US State Department to summon the Chinese ambassador in Washington, Cui Tiankai, triggering a new row between the two countries.

The China-US ties that were already rocky due to the trade war have deteriorated further after the pandemic.

After Zhao’s tweet, US President Donald Trump began talking about the “Chinese virus” and accused Beijing of hiding data about the origin and beginnings of the disease.

Management of the outbreak in its early days, when several Chinese doctors were silenced for warning the patients were infected by a coronavirus, drew much criticism.

However, China said in May that it did not know until Jan.19 how infectious the new coronavirus was, and has repeatedly rejected the US accusations that it intentionally concealed information about the severity of Covid-19.

Earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused Washington of pushing relations with Beijing towards another “cold war”.

He said that apart from the coronavirus, there was a “political virus” spreading across the US that was using every opportunity to attack China.

Meanwhile, Twitter has ramped up fact-checking of posts in a bid to fight the misinformation being spread from the platform.

Earlier, the social media site fact-checked a tweet by the US president on Tuesday when he wrote about the alleged dangers of mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.

The tweet was labeled with a fact-check link, contradicting what the president had said.

Trump responded on Thursday by signing a decree to assess whether his government can take action against social media companies if they try to moderate content posted on their platforms. EFE-EPA


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