(Reuters) - Twitter Inc has banned financial market website Zero Hedge from the social media platform after it published an article linking a Chinese scientist to the outbreak of the fast-spreading coronavirus last week.
Zero Hedge said it received a notification from Twitter on Friday, accusing it of violating the social media company’s “rules against abuse and harassment.”
The move against the website came as the coronavirus has stoked a wave of anti-China sentiment around the globe. Hoaxes have spread widely online, promoted by conspiracy theorists and exacerbated by a dearth of information from the cordoned-off zone around China’s central city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began.
Twitter confirmed to Reuters on Sunday Zero Hedge’s account on its platform had been permanently suspended for violating “platform manipulation policy”. The account had 670,000 followers as of its suspension.
A fresh Twitter account set up in the last two days with the same profile picture as the banned account and a link to the Zero Hedge website already has more than 11,000 followers.
Zero Hedge said that the new account was not operated by them and they “have no idea who is operating it”.
The website, which covers mostly finance and economics-related news, posts articles using the pseudonym Tyler Durden, a fictional character played by Brad Pitt in the movie “Fight Club”.
Social media companies, including Twitter and Facebook have pledged to take down accounts that spread misinformation about the virus.
The coronavirus has killed more than 300 people in China, and more than two dozen other countries have confirmed cases of the virus.
Zero Hedge said it initially thought the suspension was triggered by an article it published on Friday about the makeup of the coronavirus. But it suggested it later learned Twitter had received a complaint from online news website BuzzFeed over a separate article.
BuzzFeed said Zero Hedge had released the personal information of a scientist from Wuhan in an article that made allegations about coronavirus having been concocted “as a bioweapon.” The article was titled “Is This The Man Behind The Global Coronavirus Pandemic?”
BuzzFeed did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla, Mekhla Raina and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Tom Brown and Shounak Dasgupta