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Twitter Files: Pharma companies pressured Twitter to censor generic COVID-19 vaccine support

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The latest Twitter Files thread exposing the inner workings of the pre-Elon Musk era dropped on Monday, disclosing how pharmaceutical companies pressured the social media giant to censor activists voicing generic COVID-19 vaccine advocacy.

"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," tweeted investigative journalist Lee Fang.

"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," he added.

Pointing out to Twitter's involvement, Fang wrote: "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," attaching an internal e-mail within the social media giant.

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He said the Twitter representatives "responded quickly to the pharma request," providing additional receipts.

He also said that the potential "fake accounts" that Twitter monitored for protesting Pfizer were actually "real people," one of which was a 74-year-old retired bricklayer in the UK.

Separately, Pfizer and Moderna's lobbying group, BIO, entirely sponsored a specific content moderation effort established by a contractor called Public Good Projects (PGP), which worked with Twitter to set content moderation policies surrounding misinformation, Fang reported.

"BIO provided $1,275,000 to the campaign, part of which is revealed through tax forms. The PGP campaign, called "Stronger," helped Twitter create content moderation bots, select which public health accounts got verification, helped crowdsource content takedowns," he said, providing documents.

"Many of the tweets the BIO-funded campaign focused on were truly unhinged misinfo, like claims that vaccines include microchips. But others Stronger lobbied Twitter on were more of a grey area, like vaccine passports & vaccine mandates, policies that coerce vaccination," he added.

"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.

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