Twitter Files Part 16: How the pharmaceutical industry lobbied social media to shape content around vaccine policy

Last week, Investigative Journalist Lee Fang released Part 16 of what has been dubbed as the “Twitter Files”.

This latest batch of files exposes how the pharmaceutical industry lobbied social media to shape content around the vaccine policy.

In 2020 it was clear that the pandemic required rapid innovation to get people vaccinated for this once in a lifetime virus. But Big pharma wasn’t just concerned with saving people’s lives during this period, they saw the crisis as an opportunity for unprecedented profit and unprecedented profit is exacly what happened.

The pharmaceutical industry “launched a massive lobbying blitz to crush any effort so share patents/IP for new covid-releated medicine, including therapeutics and vaccines”, Fang wrote in a Tweet thread.

BIO, the lobby group that represents biopharma, including Moderna & Pfizer, wrote to the newly elected Biden administration and demanded that the U.S. government sanction any country attempting to violate patent rights and create generic low cost covid medicine or vaccines. Basically, big pharma wanted to guarantee that they made as much profit as possible, regardless if lower cost generic medications and vaccines could have saved lives.

Big pharma went directly to Twitter for their help in this effort. BioNTech, developer of Pfizer’s vaccine, went to Twitter and requested that Twitter censor users tweeting at them to ask for generic low cost vaccines. And Twitter complied. Twitter monitored the alleged “fake accounts” requesting generic low cost vaccines, except it turns out that the accounts were actually backed by real people.

Pfizer & Moderna’s lobbying group, BIO, funded a special content moderation campaign to the tune of $1,275,000 designed by a contractor called Public Good Projects, which worked with Twitter to set content moderation rules around covid “misinformation.” The campaign called “Stronger” helped Twitter create content moderation bots which helped to take down accounts spreading “misinformation” about the vaccines.

The “misinformation” ranged from a variety of claims from the vaccines having microchips in them to vaccine passports. The campaign against “misinformation”, however, did not apply to Big Pharma widly exaggerating the risks of these low cost vaccines.

In an article that Fang wrote that went into more detail, Fang noted that Moderna made $17.7 billion from vaccine sales in 2021 alone. Moderna then decided to raise prices of it’s vaccine by 400%.

Pfizer and BioNTech generated $37 billion in revenue from its shared mRNA vaccine in 2021 alone, making it one of the most lucrative drug products of all time.

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