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Pharmaceutical industry reportedly pushed Twitter to censor activists

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Another batch of “Twitter Files” have been released, this time in relation to the pharmaceuticals industry and how they reportedly pushed Twitter to restrict certain accounts.

According to a report detailing internal Twitter communications, independent journalist Lee Fang revealed on Monday how “the pharmaceutical industry lobbied social media to shape content,” including from Pfizer partner BioNTech, who he said pushed Twitter to “censor activists demanding low-cost generic vaccines for low-income countries.”

“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 on Twitter.

“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.”

BioNtech, he said, “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.”

They later applied this pressure to Twitter, Fang reported. “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.”

“Twitter’s reps responded quickly to the pharma request, which was also backed by the German government. A lobbyist in Europe asked the content moderation team to monitor the accounts of Pfizer, AstraZeneca & of activist hashtags like #peoplesvaccine,” Fang wrote.

“The potential ‘fake accounts’ that Twitter monitored for protesting Pfizer? These were real people,” Fang said, pointing out that one was a “74 year old retired bricklayer in the UK,” who he said he spoke to on the phone.

He continued, “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.

“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 clarified that his report, published in The Intercept, was done independently after he was given access to company emails.

“I signed/agreed to nothing, 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,” Fang added.

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