May 28, 2020 - Technology

Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.

Lijian Zhao

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S. and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, directing users to "get the facts about COVID-19."

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other U.S. adversaries.

  • The New York Post reports it pressed Twitter to annotate Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao's tweets from March, arguing the fact-check warnings against Trump and no one else are a double standard.
  • After initially saying it would not take action at "this time," a Twitter spokesperson told the Post that “after further review, we’ve added labels to these two tweets.”
  • “The tweets in question contain potentially misleading and harmful content about COVID-19 and have been labeled to provide additional context to the public. This enforcement decision is in line with the approach we shared earlier this month.”

The big picture: Twitter has now added fact-check labels to hundreds of tweets amid backlash over its action toward Trump, the New York Times reports. Trump, who has accused Twitter of election interference, has said he will sign an executive order on Thursday involving social media platforms.

Go deeper: Mark Zuckerberg says social networks should not be "the arbiter of truth"

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