Home » Vaccine debate: PR Council reprimands collusion between Biontech and Twitter

Vaccine debate: PR Council reprimands collusion between Biontech and Twitter

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Vaccine debate: PR Council reprimands collusion between Biontech and Twitter

The German Council for Public Relations (DRPR) has officially issued a reprimand and warned Biontech and Twitter alias X for violating the transparency requirement of the communication code. The organ of voluntary self-regulation of the PR experts working in this country therefore sees it as proven that the Mainz-based vaccine manufacturer tried to evade the public debate on social networks about releasing patents on vaccines against Covid. In mid-December 2020, Biontech asked a Twitter lobbyist to “hide” their own account on the short message service for two days. This means that critical comments, among other things, should no longer be possible temporarily.


In a statement, Biontech justified the urge with specific security concerns, according to the report published on Wednesday Resolution of July 7th. In the context of the further internal Twitter discussion, excerpts of which are available to the DRPR, a warning from the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) of potential cyber security risks in the context of “People’s Vaccine Day” was used. Accordingly, the Bonn authority sounded the alarm because of the threatening “serious consequences” of an online campaign, which could lead to a “flood of comments”, “takeover of Twitter accounts” and the creation of fake profiles.

The decision states that the action was orchestrated via the “globaljustice.co.uk” portal. What is meant is probably the domain “globaljustice.org.uk” and thus the virtual home of the activists of Global Justice Now, who campaign for more justice worldwide. On December 9, 2020, they published one together with partners such as Amnesty International and Oxfam Calling all pharmaceutical companies active in the field of Covid vaccines citing the People’s Vaccine Alliance to openly share their technology and intellectual property rights through a World Health Organization pool to ensure wider dissemination of the vaccine.

The DRPR mentions further information available to it, according to which the request by the Twitter lobbyist was discussed controversially within the US group. The initial aim was to monitor Twitter accounts and hashtags from the thematic environment of the campaign for open vaccines more closely. Even though there were concerns from the platform’s security team, accounts, tweets and hashtags were monitored during the period in question and some were flagged or downgraded as “misleading information” with reference to their own terms of use. No official statement was received from Twitter.

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“Even if cause and effect and the concrete implementation cannot be proven, the existing agreements between Biontech and Twitter alone represent a violation of the transparency requirement, writes the DRPR. This and the fact that “neither Twitter nor the BSI wanted to contribute to clarification” prompted the Council to issue a warning. This is an indication to those affected and to the entire industry that in the specific case “a behavior that tends to be harmful to public communication and the free formation of opinions by actors in the professional field” has been recognized. In addition, there is an appeal to refrain from such actions in the future. According to the “Twitter files” published after Elon Musk took over the network, content critical to Covid was repeatedly and specifically suppressed on the platform.


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