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Moderna monitors Russell Brand, Elon Musk, other 'high-risk' celebrities spreading 'anti-vaccine beliefs': Report
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Moderna monitors Russell Brand, Elon Musk, other 'high-risk' celebrities spreading 'anti-vaccine beliefs': Report

Moderna is monitoring celebrities for spreading "anti-vaccine beliefs," according to a Monday report by independent journalists Lee Fang and Jack Poulson.

The journalists revealed that the biotechnology company hired Nikki Rutman, a former FBI analyst, to head its "disinformation department," tasked with compiling internal reports about celebrities who criticized the COVID-19 vaccine, spoke out against vaccine mandates, or otherwise shared anti-vaccine sentiments. The journalists noted that Rutman is one of many former law enforcement agents now working for Moderna.

The department's reports are color-coded and ranked from "low-risk" to "high-risk" based on how problematic their narratives are to vaccine confidence. "Low-risk" reports "don't currently warrant any action," according to Moderna's department. When a response is required, the company's "team will notify the appropriate stakeholders with recommendations."

Celebrities that made Moderna's "high-risk" list include Russell Brand, Elon Musk, and Novak Djokovic, the report found. It noted that the pharmaceutical company's department created a report titled "Djokovic Crowned Anti-vaccine Hero after US Open Win."

Djokovic, a tennis star, was unable to participate in the 2021 and 2022 U.S. Open tournaments — which Moderna sponsored — after he refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Moderna's report stated, "The optics of Djokovic, whose vaccine opposition barred him from competing in the 2022 US Open, returning to and winning the Moderna-sponsored competition bolsters anti-vaccine claims that vaccines — and mandates — are unnecessary."

The company labeled news regarding Djokovic "high-risk" because "vaccine opponents" were "celebrating" the tennis player's stance. The report also noted that Moderna was being mocked for sponsoring the tournament.

Another report obtained by the independent journalists found that Moderna also deemed Musk "high-risk" for posting a video on his social media platform, X, questioning the pharmaceutical companies' claims that the COVID-19 vaccines were "100% effective." According to Moderna, the video noted that "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."

One report accused Brand of spreading "anti-vaccine beliefs" partly because he criticized the pharmaceutical companies for making "$1,000 of profit every second" during the COVID lockdowns. Moderna's report stated that Brand's views "circulated in anti-vaccine spaces where he is viewed as a truth-teller and threat to authority."

The journalists further stated that Moderna closely monitors news outlets and online vaccine discourse. The company hired Talkwalker, a technology firm, to use its Blue Silk artificial intelligence to automatically track vaccine-related conversations across 150 million websites.

Moderna did not respond to a request for comment from Fang and Poulson or the New York Post.

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