Twitter banned financial market website Zero Hedge after an article on the site falsely accused a doctor in Wuhan of creating the deadly coronavirus and revealed his personal information. The article titled "Is This The Man Behind The Global Coronavirus Pandemic?" alleged that the virus was created as a bio-weapon.
Twitter said it has banned Zero Hedge's account after it was found to have violated "platform manipulation policy". The banned account had 670,000 followers. Hours after the ban a similar account came alive on the platform with the same profile picture and accumulated more than 10,000 followers. However, Zero Hedge told Reuters it had no idea who was behind the move.
The coronavirus, which broke out in a meat and seafood market in Wuhan, has killed more than 360 people and infected nearly 17,000 people at the last count. On Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus crisis a global health emergency.
A range of conspiracy theories came up in the wake of the unprecedented health crisis in China. The chief among the accusations was that the virus was leaked from a research laboratory in Wuhan. Other pieces of disinformation that thrived on the internet included false updates on virus cure. Social media companies like Twitter and Facebook moved quickly to take down accounts that were seen as spreading misinformation.
China has lamented that the outbreak, which is seen approaching epidemic levels, also triggered anti-Chinese sentiments across the world. The charge that the virus could have leaked from a Chinese lab were bio-warfare agents were created turned the sentiment against the Chinese.
However, there's no evidence yet that the deadly coronavirus strain was leaked from a Chinese lab. The fact that the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus infection started, also hosts the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory appeared to give credence to the theory. The prevailing scientific belief is that the killer virus mutated in snakes and then transmitted to animals. Humans might have contracted the virus at the seafood market where a variety of live animals including foxes, pigs and bats are sold.
A Business Insider story revealed that members of the Asian diaspora in countries such as US, Canada, Britain and Italy reported an increasing incidence of racism and xenophobia following the outbreak of the virus. The spread of misinformation about Chinese food habits also worsened the anti-Oriental slant. One example is the viral video in which a Chinese woman was seen eating a raw bat. Though the video was shot in 2016 in the Pacific Island country of Palau, it was widely shared as having been shot in Wuhan.