23andMe has not sold all DNA data to China

15 May 2024
What was claimed

23andMe has sold all of its data assets to the Chinese government for $10 billion.

Our verdict

This is not true. The claim originates from a satirical article published on Medium, and a spokesperson for 23andMe confirmed it was false.

Claims that the DNA testing company, 23andMe, has sold all of its data to the Chinese government have been shared widely online

The posts claim that the company, which offers a service allowing customers to submit a DNA sample in return for information about their ancestry, as well as premium packages including genetic health information, has sold “all DNA assets” for $10 billion.

But this isn’t true. The claims originate from a satirical article shared on the publishing platform Medium, and a spokesperson for 23andMe told Full Fact the claim was false. 

The headline of this article, which many of the misleading posts use a screenshot of, says: “23 & Me Sells All DNA Assets To Chinese Government in 10 Billion Dollar Deal”.

However, a disclaimer at the bottom of the article states: “This article is a work of parody and for entertainment purposes only. 

“No such sale or agreement has been made between 23 & Me and any government. Please read with a sense of humor and a grain of salt.”

This, alongside much of the article, is hidden from view for readers who are not logged in to Medium. 

As well as this disclaimer, there are many other signs that the article is intended as a work of fiction. For example, the author quotes the company CEO “Gene Hackmore” (the company has actually been run by co-founder Anne Wojcicki since 2006) and claims that the Chinese government is launching a linked game show called “The Great Genetic Bake Off”. 

An internet search revealed no legitimate reports of the company selling its data to China.

While original satirical works are often shared online in good humour, things like false headlines or pictures can be screenshotted and then shared without context—potentially leading some people to believe the claims they are seeing in isolation are true. 

We’ve previously checked a number of similar posts claiming to be legitimate articles, including one supposedly originating from a paper published in Papua New Guinea

It can be difficult to tell immediately whether or not a claim online is trustworthy, especially when information can so easily be taken out of context. For tips on how to verify content, visit our fact checking toolkit.

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