“Global drug giants saw the crisis as an opportunity for unprecedented profit,” tweeted independent investigative journalist Lee Fang. He published the 15th installment of the Twitter Files on Jan. 16, posting a 15-tweet thread that detailed the pharmaceutical industry shaping social media content surrounding vaccine policies during the coronavirus pandemic. From setting a “misinformation” policy to censoring tweets that demanded generic low-cost vaccines, the latest documents revealed another powerful industry clamping down on dissent.
The Twitter Files: Part 15
In the early days of the COVID-19 public health crisis, when there was still uncertainty if the pharmaceutical sector could develop, design, and distribute a vaccine at warp speed, many people demanded that the industry manufacture low-cost generic vaccines for low-income countries. Even when the product was being allocated globally, there were still calls for inexpensive inoculations for impoverished states. But some of the vaccine makers were displeased by these requests.
According to Fang, the pharmaceutical industry “lobbied” the social media landscape, including Twitter, to shape vaccine policy content. There had been some notion that, despite “rapid innovation,” there would be an equitable solution involving partnerships to share ideas, technologies, and new forms of medicine. However, the international pharmaceutical juggernauts established a “massive lobbying blitz to crush any effort to share patents/IP for new covid-related medicine, including therapeutics and vaccines,” reported Fang.
“BIO [Biotechnology Innovation Organization], the lobby group that represents biopharma, including Moderna & Pfizer, wrote to the newly elected Biden admin, demanding the U.S. gov sanction any country attempting to violate patent rights and create generic low cost covid medicine or vaccines,” he tweeted. “That brings us to Twitter. The global lobbying blitz includes direct pressure on social media. BioNTech, which developed Pfizer’s vaccine, reached out to Twitter to request that Twitter directly censor users tweeting at them to ask for generic low cost vaccines.”
The content moderation team was asked to track “fake accounts” that protested Pfizer. The problem was that these were not bogus accounts but authentic individuals. Fang even spoke to one of the targeted account holders, a 74-year-old retiree in the UK. Despite acquiescing to these requests, many Twitter employees concluded that “none of his activism constituted abuse.”
Meanwhile, the next big thing in the world of censorship, Pfizer and Moderna’s lobbying organization, BIO, financed entirely a $1.275 million “special content moderation campaign” that was put together by Public Good Projects, which had partnered with Twitter to create content moderation rules pertaining to COVID “misinformation.” The initiative was named “Stronger,” and it assisted Twitter in creating “content moderation bots, select which public health accounts got verification, helped crowdsource content takedowns.”
The campaign homed in on a broad array of accounts, from those that published “unhinged misinfo” to those that questioned public policy pursuits (vaccine passports and mandates, for example). As a result, the drug companies regularly sent emails to Twitter’s lobbyists and content moderators containing lists of tweets to remove or verify, many of which were from Zerohedge. The website was eventually banned.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk commented on the publication being censored. “Zerohedge can be jerks at times, but they did nothing warranting suspension,” he said in response to a tweet from David Sacks.
“Notably, this massive push to censor and label covid misinfo never applied to drug companies. When big pharma wildly exaggerated the risks of creating low-cost generic covid vaccines, Stronger did nothing. The rules applied only to critics of industry,” Fang noted.
More to Come
In a previous edition of the Twitter Files, it was confirmed that Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner and senior board member at Pfizer, successfully helped censor vaccine critics, including a US government official. In addition, the current administration was also discovered to have eradicated accounts that contradicted the narrative being peddled by the experts. In the coming weeks, even more documents will be reported on by independent journalists Matt Taibbi, Michael Shellenberger, Alex Berenson, and Bari Weiss.
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