Chinese Virologist Who Claims COVID Was Made in Lab Says Facebook 'Scared of the Facts,' Promotes Parler Page

A Chinese academic spreading the conspiracy that China was responsible for creating and releasing SARS-CoV-2 says Facebook is "scared of the facts" about COVID-19 after her claims on the platform were flagged as false.

Li-Meng Yan, a former post-doctoral fellow at Hong Kong University who has spread theories about the origins of the virus via two non-peer reviewed papers, hit out at the social media giant Wednesday after it placed a fact-checking warning over a link to an interview she conducted with India-based news outlet WION in September.

"Since when could Facebook judge the validity of scientific evidence?" Yan wrote after the news publication complained that its content had been censored.

"Dare anyone represent Facebook to discuss with me point-to-point in a live broadcast, based on my two reports on the lab-origin of COVID-19 by CCP regime?" she added, challenging the flag. "Why is Facebook so scared of the facts of COVID-19?"

The researcher has amassed more than 36,000 followers on a second Twitter account after her first was suspended by the platform in September. It remains unclear why the account remains active, as its existence seemingly violates Twitter's own policy.

"You can't circumvent a Twitter suspension, enforcement action, or anti-spam challenge. This includes any behavior intended to evade any Twitter remediation, such as creating a new account or repurposing an already-existing account," Twitter's rules state.

Twitter has been contacted for comment by Newsweek.

On Wednesday, the controversial academic posted an image of her account on Parler, which she said was created in the event the second Twitter profile was suspended. At the time of writing the only posts to Parler direct followers to her academic papers.

The claims in those studies have been firmly rejected by the wider scientific community, but have found an audience among conspiracy theorists and social media users. Claims of Chinese involvement in the lab creation of the disease were previously suggested by U.S. politicians, including President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The first paper, released on September 14, claimed to disprove the natural origin theory, which suggests SARS-CoV-2, the name of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, was likely transmitted to humans from an animal source, potentially bats or pangolins. The second study, published October 8, doubled down: accusing academic researchers and public health experts of "corruption" and defining SARS-CoV-2 as a bioweapon.

Both papers clearly state the research is affiliated with the Rule of Law Society, which is a group founded by Steve Bannon, a former adviser to president Donald Trump who is currently facing unrelated fraud charges. Scientists have rejected the findings.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, tweeted on the day that the paper was published that its contents were a "shitshow of disinformation."

After describing the new COVID-19 claims as being "nonsense," Rasmussen said: "Last I checked, just accusing an entire global community of scientists who rely on evidence to assess data is not itself evidence of said worldwide conspiracy to deliberately cause a pandemic and cover it up. It does, however, fit neatly into a 'Blame China' agenda."

Andrew Preston, Reader in Microbial Pathogenesis at the University of Bath, said the first report could also not be given "any credibility in its current form."

"The interpretations made are not supported by data, are unsubstantiated and the interpretations are largely stated but not explained," Preston said in a review of the claims. "The report does not appear to start with an open hypothesis about the origin of SARS-CoV-2. The language of the report is reminiscent of a conspiracy theory."

Yan claimed in an interview on Tucker Carlson Tonight last week that her mother was arrested by Chinese authorities in retaliation for speaking to U.S. media.

Yan's scientific background ultimately remains unclear. A statement released in July by the Hong Kong University noted that she had "never conducted research on human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus" and said she no longer worked there.

Li-Meng Yan Parler
A screenshot of Li-Meng Yan's Parler account, taken on Thursday 15 October, 2020. Screenshot/Parler
Chinese Virologist Who Claims COVID Was Made in Lab Says Facebook 'Scared of the Facts,' Promotes Parler Page | Tech & Science