The New York Post is now feeling vindicated for its early reporting on coronavirus – and is also starting to understand how social media giants, taking up the news space, operate these days.
Lots of self-declared fact-checking, but little actual fact, might be a good summary of the “news” effort made by the likes of Facebook.
In late February, the New York Post ran an opinion piece, speculating on the origin of a virus that was at the time ravaging China’s region around the city of Wuhan.
The piece, published on the eve of the virus, and the disease it causes, Covid-19, spreading around the world to cause a pandemic destroying health and economies, looked into the possibility that China’s official version that it originated from bats and sold at a local “wet market” to be eaten.
Instead – the article, that was popular online until Facebook put the breaks on it – explored the likelihood that the actual origin of the virus might have been a lab in Wuhan, and touched on lax security practices in it.
The article was never sugarcoated as anything other than opinion and speculation, the website is now saying – but that never spared it from Facebook’s censorship, either.
The giant flagged it as “false information” – the work of “fact checkers” – and pretty much stopped it in its tracks.
But the website is now quoting the findings of investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who did some fact-checking of her own when it comes to the way Facebook purports to fact-check content on its platform.
In this case, the New York Post piece was disqualified by an “independent” fact-checker, Danielle E. Anderson of Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, who it turns out in the past worked at the Wuhan lab, testified to its high standards, and dismissed any story that questioned that as “not fact” – which Facebook then happily accepted.
(This, despite the fact that Anderson did say that the first iteration of the virus, SARS, twice escaped another, Beijing-based research lab in 2004.)
But it’s now late April and the Wuhan lab, described as China’s only Level 4 biohazard facility, is under renewed scrutiny.
“Multiple outlets, including Fox News and The Washington Post, report that top US national-security officials are increasingly of the belief that the bug came from that lab,” the New York Post writes.