Fact-checkers under fire: bias, cherry-picking and misleading conclusions exposed

Rebel News has been 'fact-checked' by pharma-backed fact-checkers. We will deconstruct their low-science claims to show how the fact-checkers engage in the very biases that they purportedly scrutinize others for – cherry-picking, drawing misleading conclusions and providing inadequate evidence.

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The so-called “independent” fact-checkers have labelled Rebel News as misleading for a well-sourced report that utilized manufacturer and government data.

Yet the organization, Health Feedback (an offshoot of Science Feedback) is not as impartial or objective as it claims to be. It’s part of the Poynter Institute's International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) that saw a 10,000% (yes, you read that right) increase in government grants between 2020 and 2021.

Many of the enmeshed, intertwined organizations responsible for the triumph of the IFCN are difficult to untangle, but there is a clear emphasis on funding sources from organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and by extension, Gavi, in addition to Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc.

In 2021, Alphabet partnered with VaccineFinder.org, government agencies, and pharmacies to “ensure access to authoritative vaccine information.” In doing that they also “conducted nearly 10,000 fact checks of sources appearing in Search and Google News, and invested in organizations working to stop the spread of misinformation through Google News Initiatives COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund.”

There is a clear collaboration between BigTech and BigPharma, with a focus on organizing the world's health and medical information through data mining.

BigTech injects “billions into futuristic health ideas,” and Google dominates internet searches worldwide.

The science editor responsible for this “fact check” is Flora Teoh, whose LinkedIn profile states a completion of the Digital Sherlocks Program run by the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab.

Its “Honour Roll” of funders include Facebook, Google, Pfizer, Global Affairs Canada, MERCK, etcetera.

Teoh’s claims can be rebutted as follows:

  1. Natural Immunity – the original report states that “natural immunity provides broad spectrum protection for decades.” Teoh attempts to “debunk” this claim by cherry-picking studies focused on variant-specific immunity, which was not the original claim, then fails to mention that vaccinating people with natural immunity offers little benefit and potential harm (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6).
  2. DNA contaminates in COVID-19 vaccines – the original report references genomics expert Kevin McKernan and his analysis of genomic sequencing of Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccine vials. Teoh purports to have consulted with undisclosed experts who disagreed with McKernan’s finding, despite German researchers and other scientists duplicating his alarming discovery.
  3. Mixing and matching vaccines – the original report sourced Pfizer and Moderna’s product monographs (package inserts) where concurrent administration has not been established as safe or efficacious. Teoh incorrectly conflates additional manufacturer advice not to “mix SPIKEVAX with other vaccines/products in the same syringe” as relevant to the original claim. Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has confirmed that concurrent administration is based on convenience, not safety or efficacy, and NACI did in fact observe increased reactogenicity.
  4. Omicron booster data – the original report highlighted that the omicron-specific boosters were tested on eight mice before being administered to the public. Teoh states this is in fact correct, and then sources a clinical trial that apparently proves safety and efficacy, despite its results not being published. Teoh then conflates the yearly influenza vaccine with novel mRNA boosters as justification for disregarding safety concerns around the changing composition.
  5. Risk to pregnant women – the original report questions if pregnant women are truly at high risk of severe COVID-19 infection outcomes. Teoh confirms the source has “valid criticism” yet makes the outlandish conclusion that “pregnant women who become infected are more likely to develop complications… and are more likely to die,” using two moot studies (1, 2) from 2020 that had sweeping limitations and uncertainties, including the vast majority of participants being COVID-19 negative.

Overall, fact-checkers, like HealthFeedback.org, are influenced by conflicts of interest tied to big pharmaceutical and tech companies. Despite an assertion of independence from such influences, their fact-checks mirror the very tactics they denounce as misinformation: cherry-picking, insufficient evidence and misleading conclusions.

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