REACTION: BioNTech and German government asked Twitter to censor vaccine equity critics, emails reveal

REACTION: BioNTech and German government asked Twitter to censor vaccine equity critics, emails reveal

Release date: 16 January 2023

Responding to a story in The Intercept reporting that BioNTech and Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security asked Twitter to shield BioNTech from criticism for not sharing vaccine technology with low and middle-income countries, Maaza Seyoum, Global South Convenor of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said:

“The allegations in this article suggest that government and industry tried to silence legitimate criticism during a crisis. At a time when online mobilisations were one of the few forms of protest available to the public, Twitter was seemingly asked to shield the powerful from criticism. That should worry all those who care about accountability.

“The proliferation of online disinformation has harmed the world’s response to COVID-19, and there has been significant pressure on social media companies to remove that material. It would be cynical and repressive to exploit this sentiment to silence those expressing solidarity with the Global South.

“It is alarming to read that the German government purportedly intervened to encourage the suppression of corporate scrutiny. At a time when Germany’s leaders were grandstanding against ‘vaccine nationalism’, their government seems to have actively worked to uphold it.

“If the German government wants to show that it is now willing to side with public health over private profit, it must change its approach to pandemic response. That means backing efforts at the World Trade Organization to improve access to generic COVID-19 medicines and treatments, supporting the World Health Organization’s mRNA Hub in South Africa, and standing up to corporate interests in negotiations over a Pandemic Treaty.”


Notes to editors

This comment is a reaction to a story reported in The Intercept:

Earlier this year, AbgeordnetenWatch revealed how lobbying from BioNTech changed the German government’s position on COVID-19 vaccine patents:

Germany’s role scuppering international efforts to help low and middle-income countries manufacture generic COVID-19 vaccines by waiving intellectual property rules, and the pharmaceutical industry lobbying effort against the proposal, was revealed in an investigation by Politico and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism:

Media contact

Joe Karp-Sawey, Senior Media Advisor, People’s Vaccine Alliance

[email protected]