Crisis situations are often accompanied with creation of huge amounts of fake news and conspiracy theories. Multiple conspiracy theories have been floating and circulating across platforms surrounding the origin and spread of corona virus since Covid-19 outbreak in China.
Claim: A viral claim has been rapidly spreading that states a Harvard Professor named Charles Lieber has been arrested by the US officials for manufacturing and selling the corona virus to the China.
The forwards and posts are a video and a caption attached to it. The video is a clip from a news bulletin of WCVB-TV which is from the ABC station. The video has been shared in different languages with various misleading messages attached to it. One of the caption attached to it reads “USA discovered the man who manufactured and sold the Corona virus to China. Dr Charles Lieber, head of the chemistry and biology department at Harvard University, USA. He had been arrested according to American department sources.”
The message has been extensively being shared on Facebook. The post was shared over 70,000 times. The posts have been shared with number of false statements suggesting the arrest of the professor was due to his involvement in creation and selling of corona virus.
It was also found that the post had been shared on Twitter by multiple accounts.
USA discovered the man who manufactured and sold the Corona virus to China. Dr Charles Lieber, head of the chemistry and biology department at Havard University, USA. He had been arrested according to American department sources. pic.twitter.com/TpIplNn8c3
— StephenColnel (@Lordcolnel) April 4, 2020
The claim is clearly misleading. The video of the news story is certainly true but it is being used out of context. Charles Lieber is a nano scientist, a strategic scientist, chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, and a University Professor. The Department of Justice did arrest Charles Lieber on 22nd January 2020 but he was not arrested for manufacturing and selling the corona virus. He and two other non-Harvard Chinese researchers were arrested for their alleged links with the Chinese government. They were arrested for lying to the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health about his alleged ties with Wuhan University of Technology and his involvement with Chinese government. There US officials have found no link between Lieber and corona virus. The video clips attached in the forwards and posts are not tampered with but the message attached to it was totally out of context and aided to propagation of misinformation among the public.
Upon doing a simple key word search, a written statement by the Department of Justice was found that describes the details of the crime and charges against Lieber and the 2 Chinese scientists.
The news was also widely reported by media houses when the incident occurred.
Source: The New York Times
Source: The Harvard Crimson
This viral claim has also been observed and studied by various international and Indian fact checkers like Reuters, Snopes, India Today, Alt News and Boom Live.