According to an exclusive report by investigative journalists Lee Fang and Jack Poulson, Moderna has been reported to hire former FBI agents to secretly control the vaccine debate.
Moderna, a pharmaceutical company, is using its disinformation department to monitor what it refers to as “vaccine misinformation” online. The goal is to silence any dissenting opinions and anything that could jeopardize COVID-19-related activities, such as vaccination drives, lockdowns, and mass vaccinations.
To address the “root cause of vaccine hesitancy” by identifying and “shutting down misinformation” that could sway the vaccine debate, Moderna has a whole team tasked with monitoring a wide range of social media platforms, government agencies, and news websites, according to an exclusive report by investigative journalists Lee Fang and Jack Poulson that was published on Nov. 20 in UnHerd.
As per Mr. Fang’s statement to The Hill, the internal records reveal a “wide-ranging attempt to track virtually everything mentioned online, on social media, and in the news media regarding vaccination policy, COVID policy, about Moderna, and other vaccine companies.”
Monitoring Team of Former FBI, Secret Service, and Pharma-Funded NGOs
The investigative report states that as part of Moderna’s monitoring team, its Global Intelligence division, led by Nikki Rutman, was involved in compiling internal company misinformation reports of “high-risk” celebrities critical of vaccine mandates, such as actor Russell Brand, Elon Musk, and tennis player Novak Djokovic, who is not vaccinated.
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Ms. Rutman served as an intelligence analyst in the American intelligence community for almost 19 years, most of which she spent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), before joining “Moderna’s corporate security team” in 2022. The article claims that during the COVID-19 pandemic and “Operation Warp Speed,” which featured weekly cybersecurity meetings with Moderna, a Boston-based company, Ms. Rutman was employed by the FBI and worked out of their Boston office.
Before joining the FBI, Ms. Rutman had positions as a counterintelligence analyst with the Defence Intelligence Agency and as an “adviser on terrorism to a mission manager” for the Director of National Intelligence.
Along with Talkwalker, an artificial intelligence company that uses its technology to monitor vaccine-related discussions across 150 million websites in nearly 200 countries, and the Public Good Projects (PGP), an NGO funded by the drug industry, Ms. Rutman is just one of many former law enforcement officers who work on Moderna’s monitoring team.
Mr. Fang claims that PGP is an “anti-misinformation NGO” that is funded by a $1,275,000 donation from the Biotechnology and Innovation Organisation, which is made up of lobbyists for Pfizer and Moderna. PGP collaborates closely with news websites, government organizations, and social media platforms to categorize and refute claims of misinformation about vaccines.
“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,” Fang told The Hill.
According to Mr. Fang, these Moderna-funded NGOs were putting pressure on social media corporations to alter their content moderation guidelines and remove or “de-amplify” certain tweets that criticized forceful vaccination programs. “They were actually sending entire Excel documents with tweets they wanted censored,” he stated.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement why he has dragged Pfizer to court over the COVID vaccine, as they had lied about the efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccination, which violates the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
According to its website, Talkwalker is a “social listening and consumer intelligence platform” that offers a range of services, such as “misinformation detection” and “above brand monitoring,” to pharmaceutical companies. Talkwalker and PGP have not made available to the public their definitions of “misinformation” or who qualifies communication as belonging in this category. However according to Mr. Fang and Mr. Poulson, Moderna receives false information alerts from these groups as well as marketing executives and former FBI and Secret Service analysts.
“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.”
In addition to identifying and attempting to censor subjectively determined vaccine misinformation, an email from Moderna states that the organization has given talking points and advice on “how to respond when vaccine misinformation goes mainstream” to a network of 45,000 healthcare professionals, without their patients’ knowledge.
The Great Barrington Declaration co-author and Stanford University medical professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya called Mr. Fang and Mr. Poulson’s paper “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
Not only is Moderna highlighting “misinformation,” but it also views it as a “danger to public health.” According to Mr. Fang and Mr. Poulson, it highlights both serious discussion of vaccination-related issues and simple criticism of vaccine firms.
For example, news about Novak Djokovic is rated as “high risk” in Moderna’s disinformation reports. Due to his refusal to receive a vaccination, Mr. Djokovic was unable to compete in the US Open in 2022 despite developing natural immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. After the mandates were removed in 2023, he came back and was victorious in the Moderna-sponsored competition. According to Moderna, social media users were “mockingly” bringing up the fact that Moderna was a sponsor of the US Open, and opponents of vaccines were praising his victory.
“Djokovic Crowned Anti-Vaccine Hero after US Open Win” was the title of an internal Moderna report. It claimed that Djokovic’s “optics” support the idea that vaccinations—and mandates—are superfluous.
The reason Mr. Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, Inc., and the owner of “X,” was deemed “high risk” was due to his mocking of government authorities and the media for their false claims that COVID-19 immunizations were 100% effective against the virus. According to Moderna’s report, no misleading assertions were found. However, it sparked worries that exposing the “misinformation by health authorities and healthcare providers during the pandemic” would “create a foundation for mistrust in reliable sources regarding the safety and efficacy of vaccines.” Stated differently, Moderna did not flag the video for being incorrect; rather, it did so because it distorted the conversation in the public sphere around COVID-19 vaccinations.
Mr. Fang told The Hill that while some of the tweets reported by Moderna’s disinformation team contained true falsehoods, many of them also included “genuine points of disagreement around coercive vaccine policy,” such as vaccination requirements and passports.
An Oct. 5 post on X that conveyed Mr. Musk’s disapproval of vaccination laws was brought to attention by another Moderna story. Musk has one of the biggest platforms in the world, both literally and figuratively, according to the article. He is elevating conspiracy theorists and fringe opponents of vaccines using that platform more and more.
“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 needs 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 forces 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.”
The investigation also noted that Russell Brand, a critic of pharmaceutical firms, was singled out for attention because of his opinions being “circulated in anti-vaccine spaces where he is viewed as a truth-teller and threat to authority” about his assertion that Moderna and Pfizer gained $1,000 in profit every second from the pandemic.
“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.”
Emails from Moderna indicate that additional disinformation alerts have focused on Pfizer, vaccine reluctance, competitive problems, and drug company profits. Additionally, Moderna keeps a careful eye on political politicians’ opposition to bills restricting vaccination mandates and coercive vaccination policies. One of the Moderna alerts states, “Politicians trying to ban COVID-19 mandates—or at least claiming to—signals growing resistance to COVID-19 mitigations.”
Moderna Ramps up Marking Efforts as Profit Dwindles
As the need for COVID-19 vaccinations has decreased, Moderna’s profits have also decreased. In contrast to Pfizer, Moderna was a 2010 startup that didn’t have a product approved before the COVID-19 pandemic. It went from being a failing biotech business to a “household name” valued at over $100 billion in 2021 with the development of its COVID-19 vaccine. According to Mr. Fang, The Hill, the pandemic also produced five new millionaires at Moderna alone.
Financial statistics from the corporation state that Moderna’s total revenue in 2022 was $19.3 billion, up from $18.5 billion in 2021. It has only made $3.9 billion so far this year in the third quarter.
Moderna now has to pay royalties to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which was previously led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, in addition to lost revenues and decreased demand, because NIAID scientists worked with Moderna to create the COVID-19 vaccine. Consequently, the investigative report stated, that Moderna increased the cost of their vaccine from $15–$26 per dose to $130 per dose.
Additionally, Moderna’s European patent on mRNA vaccination technology was recently rejected by the European Patent Office. In 2022, Moderna launched a lawsuit in Germany for patent infringement, claiming that Pfizer and BioNTech had stolen its technology for mRNA vaccines. Based on vaccine sales during the pandemic—which exceeded $35 billion in 2022 alone—the firm asked for compensation. Pfizer and BioNTech, however, successfully countersued Moderna. Moderna plans to appeal the decision, although a sizable settlement would have been awarded.
Moderna is attempting to reposition its COVID-19 vaccination as a sign of a healthy lifestyle in an attempt to stem declining revenues. To this end, the company is relying on a “flashy new marketing campaign” that highlights its mRNA technology and its potential to unlock solutions for a wide range of ailments.
“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.”