A new report from The Intercept’s Lee Fang alleges that BioNTech, the manufacturer of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, and the German government pressured Twitter into censoring accounts that were advocating for the sharing of intellectual property and patents associated with the vaccines.
A bio-pharma industry lobbyist organization also pressured Twitter to censor conversations surrounding vaccine passports, health mandates, and pandemic restrictions as “misinformation.”
The social media company was reportedly warned of potential pressure campaigns targeting the companies and the possibility of "serious consequences" if Twitter did not take action.
Twitter lobbyist Nina Morschhaeuser reportedly forwarded requests to the company asking them to “hide” tweets targeting BioNTech's account and to shield accounts belonging to Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca from activists.
“The authorities are warning about ‘serious consequences’ of the action, i.e. posts and a flood of comments ‘that may violate TOS’ as well as the ‘takeover of user accounts’ are to be expected,” wrote Morschhaeuser in an email. “Especially the personal accounts of the management of the vaccine manufacturers are said to be targeted. Accordingly, fake accounts could also be set up.”
The report also states that BIO, a lobbying group for Pfizer and Moderna, provided funding to establish a campaign called “Stronger” that helped Twitter create content moderation bots and select which public health accounts received verification.
“But others Stronger lobbied Twitter on were more of a grey area, like vaccine passports & vaccine mandates, policies that coerce vaccination,” Fang wrote.
It is not clear to what extent Twitter complied with these requests. The report also criticized the nations where the vaccines were first developed for “hoarding” supplies during the initial days of vaccine availability and “forcing” the “developing world” to wait for vaccines.
The People's Vaccine Alliance, a global movement advocating for access to vaccines for all, stated in response to the report, “whatever nasty tricks companies and governments pull, we cannot and will not be silenced.”