The latest Twitter Files showed Big Pharma “directly” pressured Twitter to help censor users offering any alternative treatments to COVID-19 besides Big Pharma’s vaccines.
The Intercept journalist Lee Fang released the newest Twitter Files Jan. 16 on how “the pharmaceutical industry lobbied social media to shape content around vaccine policy.” Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine-making partner BioNTech exerted “direct pressure” on Twitter to censor “activists demanding low-cost generic vaccines for low-income countries,” according to Fang. And Twitter reportedly complied.
Not only did BioNTech pressure Twitter, but another expensive push from Pfizer and Moderna’s lobbyist BIO funded a specific COVID-19 “misinformation” content moderation policy. The lobbying campaign sent numerous emails of flagged content to Twitter to censor.
Fang deemed some of the targeted content “unhinged” but said content criticizing forced vaccination was “more of a grey area.” Besides flagging content to censor, BIO’s regular emails made verification recommendations and “went straight to Twitter's lobbyists and content moderators. Many focused on @zerohedge, which was suspended.”
Pfizer’s vaccine developer BioNTech “reached out to Twitter to request that Twitter directly censor users tweeting at them to ask for generic low cost vaccines,” Fang tweeted. The German government supported BioNTech’s request, Fang noted, and Twitter representatives replied quickly. A European lobbyist then requested Twitter’s content moderation team to monitor hashtags like #peoplesvaccine and the accounts of COVID-19 vaccine makers Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
While accounts criticizing Pfizer were monitored as potential “fake accounts,” they were “real people,” Fang reported. Ultimately, while Twitter monitored the activism, it is unclear what actions were taken to fulfill the request. An MRC Free Speech America study in February 2022 found over 800 cases of Big Tech censoring the COVID-19 debate.
But BIO had another lobbying push for its clients Moderna and Pfizer.
Contractor Public Good Projects worked with Twitter on a “special content moderation campaign” for COVID-19 “misinformation,” including crowdsourcing content takedowns, content moderation bots and selecting specific public health accounts for verification. Fang reported that BIO spent $1,275,000 on the campaign.
Fang claimed the pandemic required “rapid innovation” but that Big Pharma sought a monopoly on medical solutions and the money or “unprecedented profit” they brought in. So global pharmaceutical giants “launched a massive lobbying blitz to crush any effort to share patents/IP for new covid-related medicine,” including vaccines and the much-maligned therapeutics.
Biopharmaceutical lobbying group Biotechnical Innovation Organization (BIO), which represents vaccine manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer, reportedly wrote to the then-recently elected Biden administration, “demanding the U.S. gov sanction any country attempting to violate patent rights and create generic low cost covid medicine or vaccines,” Fang tweeted.
Fang concluded: “Notably, this massive push to censor and label covid misinfo never applied to drug companies…The rules applied only to critics of industry.”
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