Authored by Megan Redshaw via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Pharmaceutical giant Moderna is policing what it calls “vaccine misinformation” online through its disinformation department aimed at shutting down dissenting voices and anything that might undermine COVID-19-related policies, such as lockdowns, vaccine passports, and mass vaccination.
According to an exclusive report by investigative journalists Lee Fang and Jack Poulson published on Nov. 20 in UnHerd, Moderna isn’t just manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines; it has an entire team dedicated to monitoring a wide range of social media platforms, government agencies, and news websites in the name of addressing the “root cause of vaccine hesitancy” by identifying and “shutting down misinformation” that may negatively affect the vaccine debate.
The internal documents show a “sprawling effort to monitor basically everything said online, on social media, and in the news media about vaccine policy, COVID policy, about Moderna, and other vaccine companies,” Mr. Fang told The Hill.
Monitoring Team of Former FBI, Secret Service, and Pharma-Funded NGOs
Moderna’s monitoring team includes its Global Intelligence division, run by Nikki Rutman, who was involved in compiling internal company misinformation reports of “high-risk” celebrities critical of vaccine mandates, including unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic, Elon Musk, and actor Russell Brand, according to the investigative report.
Before joining “Moderna’s corporate security team” in 2022, Ms. Rutman worked as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. intelligence community for nearly 19 years, most of which was spent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). According to the report, Ms. Rutman was working from the FBI’s Boston office during the COVID-19 pandemic and “Operation Warp Speed,” which involved weekly cybersecurity meetings with Moderna, also headquartered in Boston.
Before her role with the FBI, Ms. Rutman worked for the Director of National Intelligence as an “adviser on terrorism to a mission manager” and as a counterintelligence analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Ms. Rutman is only one of many former law enforcement agents working on Moderna’s monitoring team, along with a drug industry-funded NGO called the Public Good Projects (PGP) and Talkwalker, an artificial intelligence firm that uses its technology to monitor vaccine-related discussions across 150 million websites in nearly 200 countries.
According to Mr. Fang, PGP is an “anti-misinformation NGO” financed through a $1,275,000 donation from the Biotechnology and Innovation Organization—lobbyists representing Pfizer and Moderna—that works closely with social media platforms, government agencies, and news websites to classify and combat alleged vaccine misinformation.
"We know from a separate batch of documents—the Twitter files—that I reported earlier this year, that the same partners that are working with Moderna—PGP and some of these other NGOs—had a direct line to Twitter's executives, and they also worked with Google and Facebook to shape content moderation policies," Mr. Fang told The Hill.
These Moderna-funded NGOs were pressuring social media companies to change their content moderation policies and delete and “de-amplify” specific tweets critical of coercive vaccine policies, Mr. Fang said. "They were actually sending entire Excel documents with tweets they wanted censored," he added.
Talkwalker's website states it is a "social listening and consumer intelligence platform" that helps pharmaceutical businesses by providing an array of services, including "above brand monitoring" and "misinformation detection." Neither PGP nor Talkwalker has publically disclosed how they define "misinformation" or who determines that one's speech falls into this category. However, Mr. Fang and Mr. Poulson say these organizations, along with marketing executives and former FBI and Secret Service analysts, provide misinformation alerts to Moderna.
“None of the reports that we have seen makes any attempt to dispute the claims made,” Mr. Fang and Mr. Poulson wrote. “Rather, the claims are automatically deemed “misinformation” if they encourage vaccine hesitancy.”
Beyond identifying and attempting to censor subjectively determined vaccine misinformation, Moderna has provided talking points and advice to a network of 45,000 healthcare professionals—unbeknownst to their patients—on “how to respond when vaccine misinformation goes mainstream,” according to an email from Moderna.
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration and professor of medicine at Stanford University, said Mr. Fang and Mr. Poulson’s report is “absolute fire.”
“Moderna, thru the Public Goods Project, pays thousands of health professionals to attack and defame vaccine critics and push social media to censor anyone who says things, true or false, that reduce profits,” Dr. Bhattacharya posted on X.
Moderna Censors Legitimate Discussion About Vaccines
Moderna isn’t just flagging “misinformation” it considers a “danger to public health.” It’s flagging legitimate discussion of vaccine-related issues and mere criticism of vaccine companies, according to Mr. Fang and Mr. Poulson.
For example, Moderna’s misinformation reports rate news surrounding Novak Djokovic as “high risk.” Mr. Djokovic acquired natural immunity from SARS-CoV-2 infection and refused to get vaccinated, preventing him from competing in the 2022 US Open. He returned in 2023 when mandates had been lifted and won the Moderna-sponsored competition. Moderna said vaccine opponents were celebrating his win, and social media users were “mockingly” pointing out that Moderna was a US Open sponsor.
The Moderna internal report entitled “Djokovic Crowned Anti-vaccine Hero after US Open Win” stated the “optics of Djokovic” bolsters “anti-vaccine claims that vaccines—and mandates—are unnecessary.”
Mr. Musk, CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, Inc., and owner of “X,” was also classified as “high risk” because he mocked the media and government officials who erroneously claimed COVID-19 vaccines were 100 percent effective against the virus. Moderna’s report didn’t identify any false statements. Still, it raised concerns that pointing out the “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.” In other words, Moderna wasn’t flagging the video because it was wrong but because it negatively shaped public discourse around COVID-19 vaccines.
Although some tweets flagged by Moderna’s disinformation team were legitimate misinformation, many were “genuine points of disagreement around coercive vaccine policy,” such as vaccine passports and mandates, Mr. Fang told The Hill.
Another Moderna report flagged an Oct. 5 post on X that expressed Mr. Musk's opposition to vaccine mandates. The report states: “Musk has one of the largest platforms in the world—literally and figuratively. He increasingly uses that platform to elevate fringe vaccine opponents and conspiracy theorists.”
“These mandates were not successful in increasing vaccination rates. It got tens of thousands of Americans fired or pushed out of their jobs. These were controversial policies that were eventually overturned by the Supreme Court,” Mr. Fang said.
“This is not an area of misinformation that needed to be censored. This was a legitimate area of public debate around the very controversial and novel application of public policy that benefited just a small number of corporations,” he added. “Basically, the government forcing you to buy a certain product and to use it in your body. This is a bodily autonomy issue—a public health area that deserved more scrutiny, not less.”
Russell Brand, a critic of pharmaceutical companies, was also flagged for his claim that Moderna and Pfizer made $1,000 of profit every second from the pandemic because his views are “circulated in anti-vaccine spaces where he is viewed as a truth-teller and threat to authority,” the report said.
“Where this is potentially problematic is that if you look closely at these misinformation reports, they are clearly blurring the line between fighting actual disinformation—intentional lies—and classifying legitimate points of discussion around vaccine policy as dangerous misinformation,” Fang told The Hill. “They’re taking kind of a broad brush and painting any kind of criticism of their company vaccines as dangerous misinformation.”
According to Moderna emails, other misinformation alerts have centered around drug industry profits, vaccine hesitancy, competitor issues, and discussions of Pfizer. Moderna also closely tracks elected officials against coercive vaccination policies and laws restricting vaccine mandates. “Politicians attempting to ban COVID-19 mandates—or at least claiming to—signals growing resistance to COVID-19 mitigations,” reads one of the Moderna alerts.
Moderna Ramps up Marking Efforts as Profit Dwindles
Now that demand for COVID-19 vaccines has dwindled, so have Moderna’s earnings. Unlike Pfizer, Moderna was a 2010 startup company without an approved product before the COVID-19 pandemic. With the creation of its COVID-19 vaccine, it transformed from a struggling biotech company to a “household name” valued in 2021 at over $100 billion. The pandemic also created five new billionaires at Moderna alone, Mr. Fang told The Hill.
According to company financial reports, Moderna made $18.5 billion in 2021 and $19.3 billion in total revenue in 2022. Through the third quarter of this year, it has only made $3.9 billion.
In addition to lost profits and reduced demand, Moderna must now make royalty payments to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), formerly run by Dr. Anthony Fauci, because NIAID scientists collaborated with Moderna to develop its COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, Moderna raised the price of its vaccine from $15–$26 per dose to $130 per dose, the investigative report said.
The European Patent Office also recently invalidated one of Moderna’s European patents on mRNA vaccine technology. Moderna, in 2022 filed a patent infringement lawsuit in Germany, alleging Pfizer and BioNTech had copied its mRNA vaccine technology. The company requested a payout based on vaccine sales during the pandemic—sales of which topped $35 billion in 2022 alone. However, Pfizer and BioNTech countersued Moderna and won. Although Moderna intends to challenge the ruling, a payout would have been substantial.
With evaporating profits, Moderna is relying on a "flashy new marketing campaign" highlighting its mRNA technology and its ability to unlock cures for all sorts of diseases and efforts to rebrand its COVID-19 vaccine as a symbol of a healthy lifestyle.
"The most important thing for Moderna is that people keep having their jabs. Smart ads are part of that. But more important is to push back aggressively against any prevailing anti-vax narrative and engage where possible in any discussions around vaccine policy," wrote Mr. Fang and Mr. Poulson. "That’s where the Moderna disinformation department comes in."
The Epoch Times has reached out to Moderna for comment.