YouTube, Musk's Twitter throttle investigative journalists behind Pfizer 'mutate' video
Twitter shows users searching for Project Veritas founder's verified account a parody account. YouTube imputes Pfizer "misinformation" to Project Veritas to remove video, suspend account.
Two weeks before unidentified Twitter executives are scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on the platform's censorship of reporting on Hunter Biden's abandoned laptop before the 2020 election, multiple platforms are throttling a disfavored media outlet.
YouTube removed undercover video purporting to show a Pfizer executive revealing to a Project Veritas journalist posing as the executive's date the drugmaker's plan to use "directed evolution" to keep COVID-19 a "cash cow." The platform also moved to block Project Veritas uploads for a week and issued a "strike" against the pugilistic nonprofit.
On Friday night, PV founder James O'Keefe posted a YouTube notice attributing the sanctions to "medical misinformation" by Project Veritas. The video "contradict[s] expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization" (WHO) on COVID-19 vaccines, the notice claimed.
Project Veritas identified the undercover subject as Jordon Walker, Pfizer's director of worldwide R&D strategic operations and mRNA scientific planning. Walker told O'Keefe after the investigative ruse was exposed that he had lied about the drugmaker's research to impress his fake date.
"These were not our claims," O'Keefe says in a bemused tone. "I really think it's third world that big, massive corporations team up with Big Tech monopolies to target journalism in these United States." He cited unnamed "sources in Pfizer" that told Project Veritas the company is "in turmoil today."
YouTube did not respond to repeated requests by Just the News to explain why it alleged Project Veritas spread medical misinformation rather than deceptively edited the video — a charge initially leveled by another recent target of the nonprofit — or how the sanctions didn't create chilling effects on journalism.
The video sharing platform's owner Google took a more subtle approach when the surreptitious footage was first posted last week, showing supposed fact-checks and a trickle of media reporting to users searching for "project veritas pfizer" rather than the video itself or the Project Veritas website.
Rumble rushed in to post the video after the YouTube removal, promising to "hold the line against this outrageous censorship" and promote the video on its homepage.
Platforms have issued sanctions not only for undercover reporting but also for citing public documents and rigorous scientific research.
Twitter suspended Just the News founder John Solomon's account in late 2021 for citing the FDA's legal distinction between fully approved and emergency-authorized COVID vaccines. It did so again in March 2022 when Solomon tweeted a JTN report on a study of Pfizer's COVID vaccine by a Swedish university highly acclaimed by the WHO.
In January 2018, Project Veritas exposed Twitter engineers discussing the company's "shadowbanning" practices, long denied by Twitter but largely confirmed by the recent Twitter Files releases. Five years later, the platform is still suppressing Project Veritas despite the nonprofit's November reinstatement following Elon Musk's $44 billion purchase of the company.
Complaints about Twitter's "search suggestion" ban on the nonprofit's verified account, which prevents users from finding it through Twitter's search box, started the day Project Veritas was reinstated and continued into early December and early January.
The search suggestion failed when Just the News checked it throughout Monday. Rather than suggest O'Keefe's verified account in response to a search for his full name, Twitter suggests a parody account that has not been updated in four years and replaces the "O" in O'Keefe with a zero.
Despite his self-assigned role as a customer service representative for Twitter, Musk does not appear to have answered repeated requests from users to explain the continuing search-suggestion ban.
Shortly after the purchase, Musk reportedly gutted Twitter's communications team, whose last tweet was Oct. 30, so it's not clear who beyond Musk answers media questions now.
Pfizer released a carefully worded statement late Friday that did not mention Walker but rejected the purported executive's claim to his fake date that Pfizer engages in "directed evolution" but not "gain-of-function" research.
The company denied doing either, but said it works with "collaborators" to use the "original SARS-CoV-2 virus … to express the spike protein from new variants of concern" after public health authorities have identified a new variant.
In the case of its rebound-prone COVID antiviral Paxlovid, Pfizer has engineered the virus "to enable the assessment of antiviral activity in cells" in a "limited number of cases where the full virus does not contain any known gain of function mutations," the company said.
It also undertakes "in vitro resistance selection experiments" in its biosafety level 3 lab "to assess whether the main protease can mutate to yield resistant strains of the virus." Both practices are required by "U.S. and global regulators for all antiviral products," Pfizer claimed.
The statement quickly drew mockery from critics who said Pfizer tacitly admitted what the figure in the video said it was doing.
More than four days after removing its story on the Project Veritas video early Thursday morning, about two hours after it went live, the Daily Mail broke its silence and reposted a revised version with Pfizer's explanation.
"Our original story did not carry a response from Pfizer," according to a statement a spokesperson gave Just the News. "We temporarily took the story down while we vigorously pursued answers. Now Pfizer has responded, we are able to report that they have confirmed they manipulated the covid virus — although they insist there was no gain of function."
The spokesperson didn't answer whether such removal is typical for the Daily Mail, why it didn't tell readers it was probing further, and why it didn't simply update the story when it had more to report.
The revised story has two new bylines in addition to the original reporter, Andrea Cavallier, who has not answered questions on Twitter including from Just the News. It now includes evaluations of Pfizer's explanation from virologists and epidemiologists, including Rutgers University's Richard Ebright.
The reporters claim they couldn't find a "verifiable profile of Jordon Walker on LinkedIn, only profiles imitating him," though they found a person named Jordon Walker with "an active Pfizer email address" and a job title "similar" to the one attributed to Walker.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter's Notebook
- Twitter executives are scheduled to testify
- explain its plan to use "directed evolution" to keep COVID-19 a "cash cow
- James O'Keefe posted the notice from YouTube
- a charge initially laid by another recent target
- Rumble rushed in to post the video
- Twitter suspended Just the News founder John Solomon's account
- tweeted a JTN report on a study of Pfizer's COVID vaccine
- exposed Twitter engineers discussing the company's "shadowbanning"
- largely confirmed by the Twitter Files
- November reinstatement following Elon Musk's $44 billion purchase
- day it was reinstated
- early December
- early January
- parody account that has not been updated in four years
- Musk reportedly gutted Twitter's communications team
- Pfizer released a carefully worded statement
- rebound-prone COVID antiviral Paxlovid
- questions on Twitter