Big Pharma was in on the Twitter censorship scheme too

Big Pharma was in on the Twitter censorship scheme too

The latest round of the Twitter Files has dropped, and I am beginning to think that we are numb to the revelations.

No matter how outrageous the bad actors are, the MSM just shrugs and buries the news.

The rest of us just nod and move on. We knew they were evil, so what’s the news?

The result? Most Americans hear nothing about what really went on, the evildoers get away with it, and those of us who follow the stories get more cynical by the day.

This latest round of Twitter Files was dropped by Lee Fang of The Intercept.

In this edition  we learn how the pharmaceutical companies funded efforts that led to the monitoring and censorship of vaccine skeptics and activists demanding generic, lower-cost versions of the vaccine to be exported to poor countries.

The companies worked directly with Twitter, with unclear results (the data isn’t there to determine this), while also funding the efforts of a non-profit to direct the vaccine discussion. This effort was much more successful–using a third-party cutout to shape the narrative.

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 the San Francisco social media giant 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, 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.

The entire campaign, newly available tax documents and other disclosures show, was entirely 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.

Many of the tweets flagged by Stronger contained absolute falsehoods, including claims that vaccines contained microchips and were designed to intentionally kill people. But others hinged on a gray area of vaccine policy through which there is reasonable debate, 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?”

This is one of the many reasons why using third-party “fact checking” organizations is nothing but a dodge. There may be more or less objective individuals and groups out there, but they sure are hard to find and impossible to get funded. People only spend money when they have an axe to grind. If some group is well funded, it’s funders have a reason to funnel it money.

Or do you think it was out of the goodness of his heart that Sam Bankman-Fried dumped all that money into journalists’ pockets?

In this case the motives for funding ‘Stronger’ are pretty clear: the vaccine makers are promoting and defending their product, which is what they should do. Twitter should be defending their users, and they didn’t. They allied with the censors who pretended to be interested only in the truth. When “Stronger” claimed something was a fact, it was no different than Pfizer saying it. Pretending otherwise is deceit.

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 lobby 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.

I asked Smyser whether his group ever flagged any content distributed by the pharmaceutical lobby as “misinformation.”

Smyser agreed that policy debate was important, and if misinformation was spread by pharmaceutical companies, any global citizen “should be aware of it,” but 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.”

I have no problem with Smyser of the Public Goods Campaign making his claims. He may be telling the truth about his motives for all I know. He could easily believe in the pure intent of the pharma companies. But anybody claiming that the funding behind his organization doesn’t call into question the utter objectivity of Public Goods’ actions is a tool. Of course it matters. I ran a nonprofit; I know the incentives–you represent your funders, or they don’t fund you.

Among the tweets the pharmaceutical companies and Public Goods Campaign went after were those pushing for free or reduced price vaccines for people in the third world. They tried to get the movement being pushed on twitter as a spam campaign, not a political one. They claimed it was just bots (yeah right, like people demanding free stuff for poor people never happens in real life).

So The Intercept went and checked it out, contacting people who participated in the campaign.

IN A DECEMBER 2020 email thread 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.”

This shows how far people will go to shape the information landscape. That, in itself, is unsurprising. That’s why PR people exist, why governments conduct psychological operations, and why people pay others to argue on their behalf.

What’s shocking is how far organizations that supposedly mediate between competing interests will go to accommodate the Establishment, up to and including shutting down dissent. For the greater good, you know.

Societies don’t function well when they are built on the idea that a consensus is desirable, because consensus is impossible. There are always differing interests, objectives, points of view, and values that have to be weighed and balanced, and vigorous debate is the way to accomplish that. The only way to achieve consensus in the midst of controversy is to impose it by force of will, or simply force.

That has been the story of the COVID era. Enforced consensus, and in the process a breakdown of societal legitimacy. Because the consensus is fake.

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