TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Twitter this week suddenly fact-checked two dated tweets by a Chinese government spokesman, in an apparent response to U.S. President Donald Trump's complaints that his tweets had been fact-checked but Chinese propaganda had not.
On Tuesday (May 26), Twitter appended two tweets, including Trump's dubious claim about mail-in ballots causing widespread voter fraud, with information debunking the claim. Trump angrily retaliated by threatening to shut down the social media outlet and signing an executive order to remove some of the legal protections given to social media sites.
In addition to claiming that Twitter is trying to "silence" conservatives, he pointed out the social media platform has done nothing to fact-check propaganda being churned out by Chinese state-run media mouthpieces. In an apparent concession, Twitter fact-checked two tweets posted in March by China Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian, in which he peddled the baseless conspiracy theory that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was started by the U.S. military.
In the first tweet, on March 12, Zhao posted a non sequitur video of Centers for Disease Control Director Robert R. Redfield being grilled in Congress about testing for the coronavirus. In the post, Zhao makes the spurious accusation that the U.S. Army brought the coronavirus to Wuhan and ironically calls on the U.S. to be "transparent" and to make data public — two major criticisms of China's handling of the outbreak.
2/2 CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation! pic.twitter.com/vYNZRFPWo3— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) March 12, 2020
After allowing the patently false statements to languish on its platform for two and half months, Twitter this week finally appended it with a link to a screenshot of a Reuters article that cited the World Health Organization (WHO) as purporting that evidence points to the virus coming from animals and not from a lab. Oddly, Twitter failed to provide any links to the overwhelming body of evidence that points out the disease indeed came from Wuhan, China, and not the U.S. or its military.
For the second tweet, on March 13, Zhao added a link, which he claimed was "further evidence the virus originated in the U.S." However, the link, which had gone to an article on Global Release, a website run by Canadian conspiracy theorist Michel Chossudovsky, now simply reads "Not found."
This article is very much important to each and every one of us. Please read and retweet it. COVID-19: Further Evidence that the Virus Originated in the US. https://t.co/LPanIo40MR— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) March 13, 2020
Twitter then lazily added the exact same screenshot of the Reuters article, which includes a number of links to articles dismissing the possibility the virus had originated from anywhere other than the wild. There is even an article citing Wuhan Virology Lab scientist Shi Zhengli, also known as "Bat Woman" swearing "on my life" that the pandemic did not start on her lab, while failing to provide lab records or open the facility to international scientists.