In an excellent new investigative piece for UnHerd, Lee Fang and Jack Poulson expose the behind-the-scenes machinations of Covid vaccine maker Moderna to shape and censor the public debate around the jabs. Here’s an excerpt.
Behind the scenes, the marketing arm of the company has been working with former law enforcement officials and public health officials to monitor and influence vaccine policy. Key to this is a drug industry-funded NGO called Public Good Projects. According to documents we have seen, PGP works closely with social media platforms, government agencies and news websites to confront the “root cause of vaccine hesitancy” by rapidly identifying and “shutting down misinformation”. A network of 45,000 healthcare professionals are given talking points “and advice on how to respond when vaccine misinformation goes mainstream”, according to an email from Moderna.
Moderna’s disinformation arm is perpetuating the public discourse wars that have been raging since early in the pandemic, aimed at shutting down anything that might undermine Covid-19-related policies, including lockdowns and efforts to encourage mass vaccinations. These documents provide a new window into the process that has roiled speech debates over the last three years.
With PGP, Moderna is monitoring a huge range of mainstream outlets, as well as unconventional ones, such as the Steam online gaming community and Medium. Meanwhile, Moderna also retains Talkwalker which uses its ‘Blue Silk’ artificial intelligence to monitor vaccine-related conversations across 150 million websites in nearly 200 countries. Discussions around “competitor” issues, including discussions of Pfizer are flagged as well as vaccine hesitancy.
Their monitoring team includes Moderna’s global intelligence division, which is run by Nikki Rutman, who spent nearly 20 years as an analyst with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Rutman was working from the FBI’s Boston office during the COVID-19 effort known as ‘Operation Warp Speed’, which involved the FBI conducting weekly cybersecurity meetings with the Boston headquartered Moderna. She is among many former law enforcement agents now with the vaccine maker. The involvement of former law enforcement reflects a wider trend in the misinformation-space, as the Department of Homeland Security and FBI have increasingly leaned on social media platforms to shape content decisions as a national security issue.
The reports issued by the department, which are circulated around staff, include colour-coded warnings about the severity of various anti-vaccine narratives. The high and medium alerts include explanations of the news source and why it matters, followed by a listing of “low-risk narratives we are monitoring” that “don’t currently warrant any action”. If and when a response is needed, “our team will notify the appropriate stakeholders with recommendations”.
According to one report we have seen, Musk is deemed to be “high risk”. Specifically, a Musk video that ridiculed media and government officials who claimed the COVID-19 vaccine was “100% effective” against the virus. The report did not identify any false statements, but warned that his video highlighted the fact that “deception by health authorities and health care providers during the pandemic” would “lay the groundwork to sow distrust in credible sources on vaccine safety and effectiveness”.
Another high profile critic of Big Pharma featured in a Moderna report is Russell Brand. In September, he was flagged because some on social media suspect that he has been targeted for his “anti-vaccine beliefs”.
The report featured a video of Brand decrying pharmaceutical profits and making the claim that Moderna and Pfizer made “$1,000 of profit every second” from the pandemic. The claim is bundled into a “high-risk” alert that warns Brand’s views are “circulated in anti-vaccine spaces where he is viewed as a truth-teller and threat to authority”. Moderna further notes that Brand received support from “high-profile” figures such as Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson.
None of the reports that we have seen makes any attempt to dispute the claims made. Rather the claims are automatically deemed “misinformation” if they encourage vaccine hesitancy.
Definitely worth reading in full.