A Note on Li-Meng Yan and Social Media

From Mail Online:

Twitter has suspended the account of a Chinese virologist who has publicly claimed that COVID-19 was developed in a Wuhan laboratory.

Li-Meng Yan’s account was taken down on Tuesday after she accused China of intentionally manufacturing and releasing COVID-19.

…In an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night, Yan claimed she was suspended because ‘they don’t want the people to know this truth’.

…After the segment aired, the Fox News show also accused Facebook of censorship after saying they had been blocked from sharing the interview segment on the social media platform.

A video of the interview segment posted on the Tucker Carlson Tonight show’s page now comes with a warning that reads: ‘False Information. This post repeats information about COVID-19 that independent fact-checkers say is false.’

l discussed Yan and her claims yesterday. Currently, Twitter is flooded with expressions of support for the former Hong Kong University research fellow, with many users taking the view that her Twitter suspension (as @LiMengYan119) proves the strength of her case. Some of these users have re-uploaded her media appearances, and there’s even a new account in her name (@li_meng_yan), which is either impersonation or a ban evasion.

It is possible that Yan’s account has been suspended as part of Twitter’s Canute-like efforts against misinformation; however, there may be another reason, such as inauthentic behaviour designed to boost the account’s prominence – given that Yan is under the guidance of Steve Bannon, this is not a far-fetched suggestion.

As regards the Carlson interview, this has been flagged by Facebook rather than blocked – anyone using the platform can view it, but they must click a “See Video” button first. This button sometimes appears over the video and sometimes under it (presumably depending on the platform being used) – in the latter position, it can be cropped off screenshots to give a false impression of censorship. Facebook users are also invited to click on a “See Why” button to find our why the interview has been flagged – this brings up links to Factcheck.org and USA Today debunking claims that the coronavirus was bioengineered. This is less than ideal, though: Yan claims to have new information, and so a flag based on older sources gives an impression that the warning serves to re-enforce a consensus rather than address misinformation.

Carlson, as one would expect, claims that this is censorship at the behest of the Chinese government. This is unlikely – there is plenty of material on Twitter and Facebook that the Chinese Communist Party must find objectionable, and Yan’s purported “evidence” has been dismissed by scientists (1). The one thing that really has been artificially engineered is Yan’s sudden media prominence, and social media owners are pushing back against this kind of manipulation as the US election draws close.


1. Yesterday, I noted a Twitter thread by Kristian G. Andersen of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, as well critical accounts of Yan’s claims published in the Daily Beast (“Steve Bannon Is Behind Bogus Study That China Created COVID”) and Newsweek (“Fact-check: Does a New Study Give Evidence that the Coronavirus Was Made In a Lab?”). There are also pieces in Forbes (“‘Whistleblower’ Claiming China Created Covid-19 Coronavirus Has Ties To Steve Bannon”) and the New York Times (“Actually, a Chinese Virologist Didn’t Prove That Covid-19 Was Man-Made”), as well as a post by Alex Berezow at the American Council on Science and Health (“COVID: No, Coronavirus Wasn’t Created In A Laboratory. Genetics Shows Why”). Among conservatives, Jim Geraghty at the National Review advises “skepticism”, but adds the banal point that her lack of evidence doesn’t prove the virus might not be manipulated in some way.

Also of interest is this Twitter thread by Alina Chan, who advocates for scenario in which a natural coronavirus escaped by accident. Chan takes Yan at face value as a good-faith whistleblower, and bending over backwards to think the best of her, she suggests that whistleblowers are “not going to be in the clearest state of mind after abuse”, and that they ” cannot pick their savior”. However, “claiming SARS2 was derived from the Zhoushan viruses that are >3000 mutations different — this has destroyed the report’s credibility, and, more importantly, diverted attention away from RaTG13, miners, and the missing WIV virus database (the 2nd Zenodo article)”

5 Responses

  1. I realise it’s a massive task you must have set yourself but when can we expect your expose on mainstream fake news media and antisocial media’s apparently (internationally) co-ordinated continual brainwashing and reprogramming of the public with doctored videos to reinforce voters’ Trump Derangement Syndrome?

    Examples that spring to mind are:

    Cutting off the start of a talk where Trump refers to Democrats attacks on his handling of the Coronavirus crisis as yet another Democrat Hoax so giving the impression he called the virus itself a hoax.

    Cutting out the lines where he stated he wasn’t calling racists and white supremacists fine people and utterly condemned them from the middle of a “quote” on statue counter-protesters giving the false impression he was actually calling racists and white supremacists “fine people”.

    Jumping from a part of a speech where he talked about George Floyd’s funeral and how he must be pleased about…[so omitting that he said the public’s reaction to his death] to a much later and entirely separate part of the speech where he was talking about the economy to give the impression he was saying George Floyd must be pleased about the unemployment figures.

    And of course the slicing and dicing of over an hour of video of a briefing and questions and answers that included reporting of medical experiments by doctors in hospitals on COVID19 patients with tried and tested techniques such as chemical lavages and “injecting disinfectant” Far Ultra Violet LIGHT into ventilator tubes to try to give the impression Trump was telling Americans to try drinking household bleach and even injecting it at home.

    And they aren’t just leaving it up to the public to gain a false impression from their Pravda-like editing but then not only telling people he’d said what they’d falsely given the impression he’d said when he hadn’t but brought on “experts” to discuss how crazy he was to say what he never said.

    And then reinforced their fake news in opinion and discussion programmes.

    And then consolidated it in the public’s minds by broadcasting “comedy” and satirical shows where supposed comedians continually reinforce the claims and how ridiculous Trump is when in a sane world they would be taking the P out of the claims and telling us how ridiculous the media and antisocial media moguls are.

    Yes the long march through the institutions has finally reached the end of the road.

    The final destination was obviously blogs which exposed crazy religious cult-like behaviour!

    But perhaps the delay is the result of your having to be extra careful to avoid the media suing you for making false accusations claiming that they too had been fooled by fake news video, perhaps produced by a Putin Meme Factory in St Petersburg (obviously it couldn’t be China!), in a cunning collusion to create sympathy for Bad Orange Man.

    However any fule no even BBC ITV Sky and especially Channel 4 have hordes of reporters and US editors at every Trump press conference and if they haven’t got their own complete unedited video they have access to it.

    And their “entertainment” show editors and lawyers could and should have checked the full context before allowing their comedians and comedianesses to lie.

    And then if things had gone that far edited their overpaid “talent’s” lies out of their own videos.

    So publish and be damned.

    Instead of publishing daily blogs about some Chinese virologist.

    • You know, there are other websites out there you might enjoy more than this one.

      • But I do enjoy this website

        What I don’t enjoy is the suspicion you’ve gone native and are not only seeing witches but calling for their trial when there are big issues to write about.

      • And as you hadn’t noticed twitter and the rest of antisocial media have closed her
        accounts or flagged the content.

        And the main stream media are busy debunking her.

        Even the Mail is reporting her account closure.

        Not really the kind of blog we expect from you!

    • Mr Man, I always enjoy reading your comments and it is one of the reasons I look in here now and again. I suspected those stories were just more rubbish but now I now what they did. Did you used to comment on Anna Raccoon’s blog? Bruce Charlton wrote an excellent short polemic (cheaply available on Kindle) about the nihilistic media called Addicted To Distraction. I heard about it in a Swedish book called PK Samhallet (PC Society) but I bought it because of its postscript about Jimmy Savile (he swallowed the legend).

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