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How Big Pharma monitored, suppressed dissenting voices on COVID-19 vaccine policy



How Big Pharma monitored, suppressed dissenting voices on COVID-19 vaccine policy
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A report has revealed how Moderna’s “disinformation department” partnered with an industry-backed nonprofit, the Public Good Projects (PGP), to monitor and suppress dissenting voices on COVID-19 vaccine policy.

This new report by investigative journalists Lee Fang and Jack Poulson published Monday in UnHerd, sheds light on Moderna’s behind-the-scenes strategy within this new media landscape.

It exposes key actors and how they worked to monitor 150 million websites for the purpose of censoring speech that undermines the company’s COVID-19 vaccine narrative and actively shaping public discourse to benefit Moderna’s bottom line.

Moderna had never successfully advanced any product to market prior to the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine and was teetering on the edge of collapse when the pandemic was announced.

Its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine transformed the drugmaker into a $100 billion company almost overnight and turned its CEO, chairman and co-founders into billionaires.

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Through PGP and Talkwalker, a “social listening” company, Moderna’s team monitors everything from mainstream news outlets to gaming sites, deploying artificial intelligence to monitor 150 million websites across the world for vaccine-related conversation.

The team issues reports to Moderna staff that color-code the “anti-vaccine narratives” by level of risk. Low-risk narratives “don’t currently warrant any action.”

For the higher-risk narratives, the team “will notify the appropriate stakeholders with recommendations,” Lee and Poulson wrote.

Analyzing sample reports, the journalists discovered that examples of “high-risk” posts included a video posted by Elon Musk mocking myriad claims that the vaccines were “100% effective” along with a number of posts made by comedian and political commentator Russell Brand, whom they flagged in September for his “anti-vaccine” beliefs.

The Moderna team also raised concerns over the optics when tennis star Novak Djokovic, who refused the COVID-19 vaccine, won the Moderna-sponsored U.S. Open.

Lee and Paulson reported that Moderna was unconcerned with the truth of any of the claims made in the posts it flagged, only with their effects.

“None of the reports that we have seen makes any attempt to dispute the claims made,” they wrote. “Rather the claims are automatically deemed ‘misinformation’ if they encourage vaccine hesitancy.”

READ ALSO: How Pfizer hid nearly 80% of COVID vaccine trial deaths from regulators

Moderna first began working with PGP in 2021-2022 on a program called “Stronger,” where the nonprofit “identified misinformation and shaped content decisions on social media.”

PGP could do this effectively because it had “backdoor access” to twitter data, through a “firehose,” which provides real-time access to all tweets on the platform for large-scale data analysis and data mining.

PGP, which worked directly with Twitter to develop its policies around the pandemic, would send Twitter lists of accounts to amplify or censor.

Twitter’s general counsel also advised the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s task force on combating misinformation to work with PGP on COVID-19 speech-related issues.

Lee and Poulson also found that PGP distributed talking points and advice on how to respond to vaccine misinformation to a network of 45,000 healthcare professionals.

“[Moderna’s] intention, as we have gleaned from the emails exchanged, was not only to combat misinformation, but also to affect the content and tenor of public debate,” Fang and Paulson wrote.

This year, as the COVID-19 booster uptake numbers have collapsed, Moderna and PGP launched a new collaboration, this time working with the American Board of Internal Medicine, to develop a training program called the “Infodemic Training Program,” to train healthcare workers to identify “medical misinformation.”

Despite public outrage regarding social media censorship, a clear lack of interest in continuing to take booster shots and the official end of the pandemic announced in May by the Biden administration, Moderna continues to grow its surveillance operation.