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Twitter bans Zero Hedge after it posts coronavirus conspiracy theory

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The financial website Zero Hedge is now barred from Twitter after publishing an article relaying a conspiracy theory that a Chinese scientist might be to blame for the coronavirus outbreak.

Zero Hedge on Friday wrote that Twitter had notified the site that it had violated the social media platform's "rules against abuse and harassment." That followed a report by BuzzFeed that Zero Hedge had shared the identity and personal information — including the email and phone number — of a Chinese researcher it claimed might know about the source of the virus. 

The article, posted under the pseudonym "Tyler Durden" (the fictional character played by Brad Pitt in the movie "Fight Club"), was titled "Is This Man Behind The Global Coronavirus Pandemic?" It included a photograph of a scientist at Wuhan's Institute of Virology and suggested that anyone curious about the epidemic might want to pay him "a visit." 

Facebook also banned Zero Hedge in 2019, with the blog saying at the time that it didn't know why the social media company was prohibiting its content. Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies have vowed to remove accounts spreading misinformation about the virus, which has killed 361 people in China and one in the Philippines. The crackdown on Zero Hedge also comes as the coronavirus has fueled anti-Chinese sentiment around the world, with hoaxes touted by conspiracy theorists shared widely online.

"The account was permanently suspended for violating the Twitter rules," a Twitter spokesperson said to CBS MoneyWatch in an email. The company told other media outlets that Zero Hedge's Twitter account, which had about 670,000 followers, was suspended for violating its "platform manipulation policy."

Coronavirus misinformation online spreads fear in China and U.S. 06:09

Launched in 2009, Zero Hedge publishes news and commentary about the financial markets, with many articles reflecting a right-wing or libertarian viewpoint. In November, it wrongly reported that the head of the Ukrainian gas company in focus in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial had been indicted by Ukraine's prosecutor general.

Bloomberg News in 2016 reported that Zero Hedge's three main writers at the time were Colin Lokey, who quit the blog; Tim Backshall, a credit derivatives strategist; and Daniel Ivandjiiski, a Bulgarian-born former analyst who is currently listed by Wikipedia as its main editor and publisher. 

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