Exclusive access to information (ATIP) documents obtained by Rebel News show that Canada’s chief public health officer Theresa Tam is not the innocent victim as portrayed by the softball Toronto Star interview in a December 2023 feature.
Titled, “She fought off online attacks as the face of Canada's COVID-19 response. Now, Theresa Tam reveals just what kind of toll that took on her,” the article confirms that the “relatively unknown Tam” faced an onslaught of misinformation and threats following Canada’s pandemic fumblings.
In the interview, Tam notes that the kneejerk COVID-19 reaction came during the first pandemic in the social media age.
“That throws yourself out there as an individual a lot more,” she is quoted as saying. “You're exposed to anyone who can comment in the comment sections. So that was tough.”
But government response documents show that Tam directed tech giants to prioritize her vanity social media account over generic government accounts in early March 2020, just as the COVID-19 response was ramping up and lockdowns were about to begin.
Facebook was also inquiring with the agency to provide appropriate links that the tech giant could use to drive traffic to official government sources.
“PHAC [Public Health Agency of Canada] should expect significant traffic,” a representative informed Tam.
Google then confirms that Canada’s “coronavirus page is now the first result in the information panel of the Google search page,” and that the information control centre is “available to [the PHAC] as the government deals with this crisis.”
This confirmation came a day after the agency asked the tech giant to do this.
A strategic communicator at Health Canada, Sara MacKenzie, asked Google to “please point to our vanity URL in all cases.”
And “Please point to Dr. Tam’s Chief Public Health Officer Twitter Account as opposed to the [Health Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada account].”
This communication began on March 5, wherein Google basically pressures the agency to have information ready.
“In times of crisis, Google seeks to provide users with access to timely, actionable information to our users,” one email explains. “Given the urgency and severity of the COVID-19 public health emergency, we are also exploring how we may be able to swiftly surface local resources from health authorities in the most affected regions of the world.”
Google wanted to “launch these product features in the next day or two” and then put the pressure on to obtain this guidance “within 24 hours ideally.”
By March 10 Google was sharing its work-from-home directives with Tam.
“This afternoon, Google announced that it is recommending that all employees in North America work from home for the next month to help avoid the spread of the virus, and to ensure the health of our employees. This includes our offices and 1500 employees in Canada.”
The email includes a now-removed hyperlink to a tweet by Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google and its parent company, Alphabet.
By April 2 Google was “exploring ways that aggregated anonymized location information could help in the fight” by creating “COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports.”
Tam thanked Google for this work and stated that she “looks forward” to using Google’s tool at the same time that physical distancing guidelines were being developed.
In June of 2020, Google again reached out to Tam and Assistant Deputy Minister for Health Canada Jennifer Hollington to ensure social media users could only find allegedly “trusted” vaccine information sources.
“I'm writing to see if the Public Health Agency of Canada might be able to recommend a trusted source for vaccine information in Canada, that Facebook will start showing in a few places where users are encountering vaccine information - for example when they search for vaccines on Facebook, when they find vaccine hashtags on Instagram, and in Facebook Groups that are discussing vaccines or have been identified for vaccine misinformation. Currently, our trusted source is the WHO, and we'd like to find a local Canadian partner to provide the most relevant vaccine information to Canadians in English and French on our platforms. Specifically, would PHAC have a preferred vaccine information URL that we can link to across our platforms in Canada? I am also aware of Immunize Canada and we could approach them if you think they are better equipped to be the official trusted information source.”
But by the end of August, this wasn’t enough for Tam.
“I comment about the need for social media platforms to do their part promoted [SIC] an email from [redacted],” her email begins.
“I know social media and internet companies have been making efforts in combating vaccine misinformation, working with Comms/CIRID [Centre for Immunization and Respiratory Infectious Diseases]. Backpocket [SIC] bullets about some of the work they have been doing would be good. I can deploy them as appropriate. Good to keep the collaboration going as a step in the right direction (while personally I think more needs to be done).”
Indeed, Tam voiced the desire for the government to control social media at the World Health Assembly’s May 2022 strategic roundtable on Behaviour Science for Better Health, too.
Nothing quite says informed choice like controlling the flow of information in a way that conforms to the desires of a highly profitable, billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry.
Read the documents: