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In Part 1 of the Twitter Files, we learned that Twitter was working with politicians, federal agencies, and Biden’s campaign team to censor information on Twitter – specifically as related to Hunter Biden’s laptop and the ensuing New York Post story.
In Part 2, we learned that teams of Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users. In other words, “blacklisting” and “shadowbanning” were real, despite congressional testimony by people like Jack Dorsey claiming otherwise.
In Part 3, we revealed how Twitter employees and directors escalated their censorship campaign in January 2020… and how they effectively threw out the rulebook in favor of their own partisan ideals.
In Part 4, we learned how Twitter executives built the case for a permanent ban – something unprecedented for a world leader up to that point. More importantly, we learned how that “decision” was written in stone before it ever happened.
In Part 5, we uncovered the uncouth truth about what really happened at Twitter when they chose to permanently ban a sitting US president from one of the most-viewed social platforms in the world.
In Part 6, we learned just how closely Twitter worked with government agencies – particularly the FBI – to shut down posts and accounts… all behind closed doors. Twitter’s contact with the FBI was constant and pervasive, as if it were a subsidiary.
In Part 7, we discovered how the FBI & intelligence community discredited factual information about Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings before the New York Post broke the story about Biden’s laptop… and how the FBI gave Twitter nearly $3.5 million for their cooperation.
In Part 8, we found out how Twitter quietly aided the pentagon’s covert online PsyOp campaign. Despite promises to shut down covert state-run propaganda networks, Twitter docs show that the social media giant directly assisted the U.S. military’s influence operations.
In Part 9, we learned about “Other Government Agencies” (which is the federal codeword for the CIA), and how that agency was intimately involved in the effort to silence dissenting opinions on Twitter and other tech/media platforms.
In Part 10, we began to unwrap the pervasive censorship associated with SARS-CoV-2, including masks, lockdowns, and vaccine safety. Both political parties worked to silence reputable doctors and scientists, which led to injury and death for millions.
In Part 11, we reviewed how and why media – including Twitter – ultimately surrendered to the intelligence community. Moreover, most of this government-mandated censorship was based on rumors and misinformation, with federal agencies unable to support their allegations with hard data.
In Part 12, we learned how the FBI was able to moderate by proxy using an unrestricted “information highway” that turned Twitter into an involuntary subcontractor for the government’s censorship arm.
In Part 13, we’ll show how Scott Gottlieb – a current Pfizer board member and former FDA commissioner – pressured Twitter to remove factual information about COVID-19 in order to protect his financial interests.
In Part 14, we’re going to expose the truth about “Russiagate.” Despite authoritative claims by Legacy Media of Russian interference in U.S. elections, Twitter had been telling Democrats privately that it simply wasn’t true.
In Part 15, we’ll learn how BioNTech (along with other pharmaceutical companies) pressured Twitter to ensure that their COVID-19 shots couldn’t be produced generically. As a result, these companies generated roughly $55 BILLION in 2021 alone… for shots that were untested, ineffective, and dangerous.
This story comes from Lee Fang. You can read the entire Twitter thread here.
In December of 2020, Nina Morschhaeuser, a lobbyist for Twitter in Europe, emailed colleagues with a dire warning. The drugmaker BioNTech, along with the German government, had contacted her with news of an imminent “campaign targeting the pharmaceutical companies developing the COVID-19 vaccine,” she wrote.
“The authorities are warning about ‘serious consequences’ of the action, i.e., posts and a flood of comments ‘that may violate TOS’ as well as the ‘takeover of user accounts’ are to be expected,” wrote Morschhaeuser. “Especially the personal accounts of the management of the vaccine manufacturers are said to be targeted. Accordingly, fake accounts could also be set up.”
The campaign they were concerned about was the launch of an international push to force the drug industry to share the intellectual property and patents associated with coronavirus vaccine development. Making the patents available, in turn, would allow countries across the world to swiftly manufacture generic vaccines and other low-cost therapeutics to deal with the ongoing pandemic.
Morschhaeuser, while alerting several site integrity and safety teams at Twitter, forwarded on an email from BioNTech spokesperson Jasmina Alatovic, who asked Twitter to “hide” activist tweets targeting her company’s account over a period of two days.
Morschhaeuser flagged the corporate accounts of Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca for her colleagues to monitor and shield from activists. Morschhaeuser also asked colleagues to monitor the hashtags #PeoplesVaccine and #JoinCTAP, a reference to the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, a program promoted by developing countries to accelerate the development of vaccines through the equitable sharing of research and manufacturing capacity. She noted that the group Global Justice Now was spearheading the action with an online sign-up form.
It is not clear to what extent Twitter took any action on BioNTech’s request. In response to Morschhaeuser’s inquiry, several Twitter officials chimed in, debating what action could or could not be taken. Su Fern Teo, a member of the company’s safety team, noted that a quick scan of the activist campaign showed nothing that violated the company’s terms of service, and asked for more examples to “get a better sense of the content that may violate our policies.”
But it shows the extent to which pharmaceutical giants engaged in a global lobbying blitz to ensure corporate dominance over the medical products that became central to combatting the pandemic. Ultimately, the campaign to share Covid vaccine recipes around the world failed.
Fang accessed Twitter’s emails after the company’s billionaire owner, Elon Musk, granted access to several reporters in December. This is the second story he has reported through access to these files. The first centered on the Pentagon’s network of fake Twitter accounts used to spread U.S. narratives in the Middle East, something we covered in Part 8.
Twitter and the German Federal Office for Information Security, the cybersecurity agency that Morschhaeuser said contacted Twitter on behalf of BioNTech, did not respond to a request for comment. BioNTech’s Alatovic, in response to a request for comment, stressed that the firm “takes its societal responsibility seriously and is investing in solutions to improve the health of people regardless of their income.”
In November, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism published a lengthy report showing that pharmaceutical companies went to great lengths to stifle efforts to share pandemic-related patents and IP, including threats to the leadership of Belgium, Colombia, and Indonesia.
Fang has also detailed the domestic lobbying push to block support for a special World Trade Organization waiver necessary for the rapid creation of generic pandemic medicine (Here, here, here, here, here, and here. German media has similarly reported on the aggressive effort by BioNTech to build support from the German government in opposing the waiver at the WTO.
In May 2021, the Biden administration reversed its earlier position and that of the Trump administration and voiced support for the WTO waiver, making the U.S. one of the largest wealthy countries to support the idea, backed by a coalition led by India and South Africa. But infighting at the international trade body, along with staunch opposition from other wealthy countries, prevented any effective progress on the issue.
The largely successful assault against the creation of generic vaccines resulted in an unprecedented explosion in profit for a few select biopharmaceutical drug interests. Pfizer and BioNTech generated a staggering $37 billion in revenue from its shared mRNA vaccine in 2021 alone, making it one of the most lucrative drug products of all time.
Moderna, which made $17.7 billion from vaccine sales in 2021, recently announced its plan to hike the price of its Covid shot by about 400%.
The high cost of vaccines and concentrated ownership meant supplies in 2021 were hoarded in the European Union, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Japan, and other wealthy countries, while much of the developing world was forced to wait for excess vaccines the following year.
As we’ve seen, this may have inadvertently saved thousands of lives.
“For more than two years, a global movement has been speaking out against pharmaceutical greed and demanding that everyone, everywhere have the tools to combat pandemics,” said Maaza Seyoum, a campaigner for the People’s Vaccine Alliance.
“Whatever nasty tricks companies and governments pull,” she added, “we cannot and will not be silenced.”
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, noted that at the time of BioNTech’s censorship request, much of the world was under various lockdown orders, making digital forms of protest all the more vital for influencing public policy.
“To try and stifle digital dissent during a pandemic, when tweets and emails are some of the only forms of protest available to those locked in their homes, is deeply sinister,” he said.
BioNTech was not the only channel through which vaccine-makers sought to shape content moderation actions at Twitter.”Stronger,” a campaign run by Public Good Projects (a public health nonprofit specializing in large-scale media monitoring programs), regularly communicated with Twitter on regulating content related to the pandemic. The firm worked closely with Twitter to help develop bots to censor vaccine misinformation and, at times, sent direct requests to Twitter with lists of accounts to censor and verify.
Internal Twitter emails show regular correspondence between an account manager at Public Good Projects and various Twitter officials (including Todd O’Boyle, a lobbyist with the company who served as a point of contact with the Biden administration). The content moderation requests were sent throughout 2021 and early 2022.
As newly available tax documents and other disclosures show, the entire campaign was funded by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a vaccine industry lobbying group. BIO, which is financed by companies such as Moderna and Pfizer, provided Stronger with $1,275,000 in funding for the effort, which included tools for the public to flag content on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for moderation.
Some of the tweets flagged by Stronger contained unsubstantiated claims that COVID-19 vaccines contained microchips and were designed to intentionally kill people. But the majority hinged on issues that are (at the very least) reasonable subjects of robust reporting, such as requests to label or take down content critical of vaccine passports and government mandates to require vaccination.
One tweet flagged by the BIO-backed moderation effort read, “if a vaccinated person and an unvaccinated person have roughly the same capacity to carry, shed and transmit the virus, particularly in its Delta form, what difference does implementing a vaccination passport actually make to the spread of the virus?”
Public health experts and civil libertarians strongly debated the constitutionality of such passports, an idea that was eventually discarded by U.S. policymakers.
Joe Smyser, the chief executive of Public Good Projects in charge of the Stronger campaign, said his organization’s work was a good-faith effort to battle disinformation.
“BIO contributed money and said, ‘You guys are planning on running a pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine-misinformation effort and we will give you $500,000 [per year] no questions asked,’” said Smyser.
Many pharmaceutical lobbying groups made exaggerated claims about the danger of sharing vaccine technology. PhRMA, another drug industry lobby group, falsely claimed on Twitter that any effort to allow the creation of a generic Covid vaccine would result in placing all 4.4 million jobs supported by the entire American drug industry at risk.
Fang asked Smyser whether his group ever flagged any content distributed by the pharmaceutical lobby as “misinformation.”
Smyser agreed that policy debate was important, and that if misinformation was spread by pharmaceutical companies, any global citizen “should be aware of it.” He emphasized that his organization never flagged or focused on any drug industry content.
“I understand why someone would be skeptical, because as a researcher, it matters where your money comes from,” Smyser said. But, he argued, “my job is, how do people figure out where to go get vaccinated? And how do I encourage them to get the vaccine? That was it.”
In an email thread from December 2020 further discussing how to monitor BioNTech and respond to the vaccine equity campaign engaging in “spammy behavior” (potentially in violation of the social media company’s policies), Holger Kersting, a Twitter spokesperson in Germany, offered several links to tweets in potential violation of the policy.
Two of the tweets were from an account owned by Terry Brough, a retired bricklayer in a small town outside of Liverpool. The messages called on the chief executives of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca to share vaccine technology with “poor countries.”
Reached for comment, Brough reacted with surprise that his messages were being monitored for possible fake content.
“I’m actually 74 and still living,” said Brough with a chuckle. “I was a bricklayer all my life just like my dad. I’m no Che Guevara, but I’ve been an activist, a trade unionist, and a socialist. And all I did was sign a tweet. I wish I could’ve done more, really.”
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