Investigative journalist Lee Fang unveiled the latest edition of the Twitter Files on Monday, showcasing how “the pharmaceutical industry lobbied social media to shape content” related to the COVID vaccine.
“The push included direct pressure from Pfizer partner BioNTech to censor activists demanding low-cost generic vaccines for low-income countries,” Fang wrote.
Twitter owner Elon Musk has been vocal about transparency when it comes to Twitter’s past and present actions curating content on the platform, including censored content. He has enlisted independent journalists to slowly release evidence of these actions in a series dubbed the “Twitter Files” that continue to expose once-secret communications.
“In 2020, it was clear that the pandemic would require rapid innovation. Early on, there was a push to make the solution equitable: an international partnership to share ideas, technology, new forms of medicine to rapidly solve this crisis,” Fang wrote.
“But global drug giants saw the crisis as an opportunity for unprecedented profit. Behind closed doors, pharma launched a massive lobbying blitz to crush any effort to share patents/IP for new covid-related medicine, including therapeutics and vaccines,” Fang wrote. “BIO, 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.”
Fang then got into Twitter’s involvement.
“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,” Fang wrote to accompany an internal email.
He noted that Twitter reps “responded quickly to the pharma request,” providing additional receipts.
Fang reported that the “potential ‘fake accounts’ that Twitter monitored for protesting Pfizer” were actually “real people” and found a 74-year-old retired bricklayer who was among them.
“It’s not clear what actions Twitter ultimately took on this particular request. Several Twitter employees noted in subsequent messages that none of this activism constituted abuse. But the company continued monitoring tweets,” Fang wrote. “In a separate push, Pfizer & Moderna’s lobbying group, BIO, fully funded a special content moderation campaign designed by a contractor called Public Good Projects, which worked w/Twitter to set content moderation rules around covid ‘misinformation.'”
Fang then provided tax forms revealing that BIO provided nearly $1.3 million to the campaign and noted that “many of the tweets the BIO-finded campaign focused on were truly unhinged misinfo.”
“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 wrote.
Fang noted that he was “given some access to Twitter emails” but didn’t sign anything or make any promises.
“Twitter had no input into anything I did or wrote. The searches were carried out by a Twitter attorney, so what I saw could be limited,” he wrote to conclude the lengthy thread.
Previous Twitter Files have covered a wide range of topics, including the company’s suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story during the 2020 presidential election; the internal pressure it faced to permanently ban former President Donald Trump; efforts by the White House and government officials to suppress content; and the long-rumored shadow-banning of prominent conservatives.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.