Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a member of the Pfizer board of directors, was found to have lobbied Twitter to censor information that questioned the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in comparison to natural immunity, according to newly released Twitter files.
The files show that Twitter censored a tweet from Dr. Brett Giroir, a board member at the biopharmaceutical company Altesa Biosciences, which produces drugs to combat COVID-19, after it was flagged by Gottlieb.
In August 2021, Gottlieb complained to Todd O’Boyle, a senior manager on Twitter’s Public Policy team, about Giroir’s claim that natural immunity offered greater protection than the vaccine.
Despite Twitter ruling that the tweet did not violate its rules, the social media platform still added a "misleading" tag on the post, meaning it had its replies, shares, and likes disabled, effectively burying it in the algorithm.
This is an example of a board member of a pharmaceutical company using his influence to shape the public's perception about the COVID vaccine efficacy to push for a product produced by his company.
A week later, Gottlieb also flagged another tweet from lockdown skeptic Justin Hart, which discussed the cost of the pandemic in terms of schooling for children, expressing concerns that it might generate doubt surrounding giving the COVID vaccine to kids. He also previously flagged an article by journalist and COVID-19 vaccine skeptic Alex Berenson, who was subsequently suspended by Twitter.
Gottlieb's action was perceived as putting corporate interests first, not public health interest. As the tweet from Giroir was not violating any rules, the action of censorship was seen as a way to protect the interest of Pfizer.
Gottlieb expressed disappointment that his actions had been exposed and expressed concerns that it could lead to "more menacing dialogue, with potentially serious consequences."
In response to the new Twitter Files release, Gottlieb wrote: “In the past, I've raised concerns with Twitter related to the safety of me and others, and threats being made on the platform. This included direct as well as specific threats. Sometimes it included statements that I believed were purposely false and inflammatory.”
“The selective disclosure of my private communications with Twitter stokes the threat environment. So does actions that empower people who’ve shown little restraint when it comes to purposeful vitriol. It instigates more menacing dialogue, with potentially serious consequences,” he continued.
“If the goal of TwitterFiles is transparency, here's some of the private e-mails I had with Twitter, related to threats and safety, which weren't released; and which I repeatedly highlighted in my communications with the platform,” he said.
Gottlieb did not address the allegations of censorship put forth by Berenson in the Twitter Files release, choosing instead to highlight a number of threats he received.