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How The EU Is Forcing Twitter To Censor (And Musk Can’t Stop It)

How The EU Is Forcing Twitter To Censor (And Musk Can’t Stop It)

Authored by Robert Kogon via The Brownstone Institute,

Twitter is obviously…

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How The EU Is Forcing Twitter To Censor (And Musk Can't Stop It)

Authored by Robert Kogon via The Brownstone Institute,

Twitter is obviously at the center of what is commonly known as “Big Tech censorship.” It has been busily using the censorship tools at its disposal – from removing or quarantining tweets to surreptitiously “deboosting” them (shadow-banning) to outright account suspension – for at least two years now. And those who have managed to remain on the platform will have noticed a sharp upturn in its censorship activities starting last summer. 

For most of this time, the main focus of Twitter censorship has, of course, been supposed “Covid-19 disinformation.” By now, almost all the most influential advocates of early treatment or critics of Covid-19 vaccines on Twitter have had their accounts suspended, and most have not made it back. 

The list of the permanently suspended includes such prominent voices as Robert Malone, Steve Kirsch, Daniel Horowitz, Nick Hudson, Anthony Hinton, Jessica Rose, Naomi Wolf, and, most recently, Peter McCullough. 

And myriad smaller accounts have met the same fate for committing such thought crimes as suggesting that the myocarditis risk of both mRNA vaccines (Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer) outstrips any benefit or pointing to mRNA instability and its unknown consequences for safety and efficacy.   

But why in the world would Twitter censor such content? The expression “Big Tech censorship” implies that Twitter et al. are censoring of their own accord, which invariably elicits the retort that, well, they are private companies, so they can do what they want. But why would they want to? 

The notion that it is because the denizens of Silicon Valley are “leftists” or “liberals” is clearly not very helpful. They may well be. But whether mRNA vaccines are safe and effective, as advertised, is a factual matter, not an ideological one. And, in any case, the purpose of private for-profit corporations is, needless to say, to make a profit. The motto of the shareholder is not “Workers of the World Unite!” but “Pecunia non olet:” money doesn’t stink. Shareholders expect management to create value, not destroy it.

But what Twitter is doing by censoring is precisely subverting its own business model, thus undermining profitability and putting downward pressure on share price. Free speech is obviously the lifeblood of every social media. Censored speech – like the tweets of a Robert Malone or a Peter McCullough or, for that matter, a Donald Trump – translates into lost traffic for the platform. And traffic is, of course, the key to monetizing unrestricted online content. 

We could call this the “Twitter conundrum.” On the one hand, there is no way that Twitter could possibly “want” to censor Covid dissident voices, or indeed any voices, and thus restrict its own traffic. But, on the other hand, if it fails to do so, it risks incurring massive fines of up to 6% of turnover, which would likely represent a deathblow to a company that already has not turned a profit since 2019. Twitter, in effect, has a financial gun to its head: censor or else.

Wait, what? There has been much talk recently of the Biden administration exerting informal pressure on Twitter and other social media to censor unwelcome content and voices, and lawsuits have even been launched against the government for infringing the alleged victims’ 1st Amendment rights. But all that such pressure appears thus far to have consisted of are some chummy nudges in emails. 

There has surely not been any threat of fines. How could there be without a law authorizing the executive branch to impose them? And such a law would be blatantly unconstitutional, since precisely what the 1st Amendment states concerning freedom of speech is that “Congress shall make no law…abridging” it.

But there’s the rub. Congress, needless to say, has not made any such law. But what if a foreign power made such a law and it de facto abridged the freedom of speech also of Americans? 

Unbeknownst to most Americans, this has in fact occurred and their 1st Amendment rights are being vitiated, namely, by the European Union. There is a financial gun pointed at Twitter. But it is not the Biden administration, but rather the European Commission, under the leadership of Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, that has its finger on the trigger.

The law in question is the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which was passed by the European Parliament last July 5 amidst almost total indifference – in Europe as much as in the United States – despite its momentous and disastrous implications for freedom of speech worldwide.

The DSA gives the European Commission the power to impose fines of up to 6% of global turnover on “very large online platforms or very large online search engines” that it finds to be non-compliant with its censorship requirements. “Very large” is defined as any platform or search engine that has over 45 million users in the EU. Note that while the size criterion is limited to users in the EU, the sanction is based precisely on the company’s global turnover.

The DSA has been designed to function in combination with the EU’s so-called Code of Practice on Disinformation: an ostensibly voluntary code for “combatting disinformation” – aka censoring – that was originally launched in 2018 and of which Twitter, Facebook/Meta and Google/YouTube are all signatories.

But with the passage of the DSA, the Code of Practice is evidently not so “voluntary” anymore. There is no need for complex legal analyses to show that the sanction provisions in the DSA are intended as the enforcement mechanism for the Code of Practice. The European Commission has said so itself – and in a tweet no less!

In fact, the Code has never really been all that voluntary. The Commission had already made its desire to “tame” the US tech giants known previously, and it had already flexed its muscles, imposing massive fines on Google and Facebook for other alleged offenses. 

Moreover, it has been brandishing the threat of the DSA fines since December 2020, when it first put forward the DSA legislation. (In the European Union, the Commission, the EU’s executive branch, has sole authority to initiate legislation. Quaint American notions like the separation of powers are not a thing in the EU.) The eventual passage of the legislation by the parliament has always been treated as a mere formality. Indeed, the above-cited tweet was posted on June 16 of this year, three weeks before the parliament voted on the law!

Curiously, the publication of the draft legislation coincided with the authorization and subsequent rollout of the first Covid-19 vaccines in the EU: the legislation was unveiled on December 15 and the first Covid-19 vaccine, that of BioNTech and Pfizer, was authorized by the Commission just six days later. Vaccine skeptics or critics would quickly become the principal target of EU-driven online censorship thereafter.

Six months earlier, in June 2020, the Commission had already placed the focus of the Code firmly on alleged “Covid-19 disinformation” by launching a so-called Fighting COVID-19 Disinformation Monitoring Programme, in which all Code signatories were expected to participate. Some attempts had already been made at monitoring compliance with the Code, and signatories were expected to submit annual reports. But, as part of the Covid-19 monitoring program, signatories were now required – “voluntarily,” of course – to submit monthly reports to the Commission specifically dedicated to their Covid-19-related censorship efforts. The rhythm of submission was subsequently scaled back to bimonthly.

Twitter’s reports, for example, contain detailed statistics on Covid-related content removal and account suspensions. The below chart, showing the evolution of these numbers from February 2021 (shortly after vaccine rollout) through April 2022, is taken from Twitter’s latest available report from June of this year.

Note that the data concerns content removed and accounts suspended globally: i.e. Twitter’s efforts to satisfy the Commission’s censorship expectations do not only affect the accounts of users based in the EU, but of users all around the world

The fact that many, if not most, of the accounts that have been suspended in this connection were written in English raises particularly troubling issues. In the aftermath of Brexit, after all, only around 1.5% of the EU’s population are native English speakers! Even supposing that policing speech was a good thing, what business does the EU have policing speech, or requiring social media platforms to police speech, in English, any more, say, than in Urdu or Arabic?   

The Twitter report and those of other Code signatories can be downloaded here. If the numbers were to be continued, they would undoubtedly show a sharp upturn in censorship activities starting in late June/early July. Twitter users interested in the subject could not help but have noticed the massive purge of Covid dissident accounts that occurred over the summer. 

And this upturn was in fact entirely to be expected, since on June 16 – the day the European Commission posted its warning to online platforms reproduced above and three weeks before the passage of the DSA – the Commission announced the adoption of a new, “strengthened” Code of Practice on Disinformation.

The timing was surely not coincidental. Rather, the adoption of the “strengthened” Code of Practice and the passage of the DSA served as a kind of one-two punch, putting “very large online platforms and search engines” – Twitter, Meta/Facebook and Google/YouTube, in particular – on notice about what would be in store for them if they failed to fulfill the EU’s censorship requirements.

Not only does the new Code contain no less than 44 “commitments” that signatories are expected to meet, but it also contains a deadline for meeting them: namely, six months after signature of the Code (cf. paragraph 1(o)). For original signatories of the new Code like Twitter, Meta and Google, this would bring us, namely to December. Hence, the sudden rush of Twitter et al. to prove their censorship bona fides.

The “strengthened” Code was supposedly written by the signatories themselves, but under extensive “guidance” from the European Commission that was first made available in May 2021. Chillingly, the Commission “guidance” refers to the kind of censorship data presented above as “key performance indicators” (pp. 21f). (Different euphemisms are used in the Code itself.)

As part of the new Code, moreover, signatories will participate in a “permanent task-force” chaired by the European Commission and that will also include “representatives of the European External Action Service,” i.e. the EU’s foreign service (Commitment 37).

Think about this for a moment. For the last several months, American commentators have been up in arms about occasional, informal contacts between social media companies and the Biden administration, whereas those same companies have been systematically reporting back to the European Commission on their censorship efforts for the last two years now and they will henceforth be part of a permanent task force on “combatting disinformation” – aka censoring — chaired by the European Commission.

While the former may or may not constitute collusion, the latter is obviously something much more than mere collusion. It is a matter of explicit EU policy and law that directly subordinates online platforms to the Commission’s censorship agenda and requires them to implement it on pain of ruinous fines. 

Note that the DSA gives the Commission “exclusive” – in effect, dictatorial – powers to determine compliance and to apply sanction. For the online platforms, the Commission is judge, jury and executioner. 

Again, there is no need to enter into the tortuous details of the legislative text to show this. All official EU pronouncements on the DSA highlight the fact. See here, for instance, from the parliament’s Internal Market Committee, which notes that the Commission will also be able to “inspect a platform’s premises and get access to its databases and algorithms.”

Does anyone really imagine that the Biden administration has anything remotely like this sort of capacity to direct the actions of online platforms? Make no mistake about it. Twitter censorship is government censorship. But the government in question is not the US government, but rather the European Union, and the EU is, in effect, imposing its censorship on the entire world.

Those hoping that Elon Musk’s buying Twitter, if it does indeed come to pass, will put an end to Twitter censorship are going to be in for a rude awakening. Elon Musk will be facing the same conundrum as Twitter’s present management and will be just as much hostage to the EU’s censorship requirements.

Lest there be any doubt about this, consider the below video, which, despite the forced smiles, has indeed something of the feel of a hostage video. In early May – just a couple of weeks after Twitter accepted Musk’s original purchase offer and, yet again, before the European parliament had even had the opportunity to vote on the DSA – the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton traveled to Austin, Texas, to explain the “new regulation” to Musk. 

Breton then memorialized Musk’s cringeworthy submission to the EU’s demands in the video posted on his Twitter feed.

Tyler Durden Sun, 10/09/2022 - 10:30

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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Another country is getting ready to launch a visa for digital nomads

Early reports are saying Japan will soon have a digital nomad visa for high-earning foreigners.

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Over the last decade, the explosion of remote work that came as a result of improved technology and the pandemic has allowed an increasing number of people to become digital nomads. 

When looked at more broadly as anyone not required to come into a fixed office but instead moves between different locations such as the home and the coffee shop, the latest estimate shows that there were more than 35 million such workers in the world by the end of 2023 while over half of those come from the United States.

Related: There is a new list of cities that are best for digital nomads

While remote work has also allowed many to move to cheaper places and travel around the world while still bringing in income, working outside of one's home country requires either dual citizenship or work authorization — the global shift toward remote work has pushed many countries to launch specific digital nomad visas to boost their economies and bring in new residents.

Japan is a very popular destination for U.S. tourists. 

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This popular vacation destination will soon have a nomad visa

Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Latvia and Malta are some of the countries currently offering specific visas for foreigners who want to live there while bringing in income from abroad.

More Travel:

With the exception of a few, Asian countries generally have stricter immigration laws and were much slower to launch these types of visas that some of the countries with weaker economies had as far back as 2015. As first reported by the Japan Times, the country's Immigration Services Agency ended up making the leap toward a visa for those who can earn more than ¥10 million ($68,300 USD) with income from another country.

The Japanese government has not yet worked out the specifics of how long the visa will be valid for or how much it will cost — public comment on the proposal is being accepted throughout next week. 

That said, early reports say the visa will be shorter than the typical digital nomad option that allows foreigners to live in a country for several years. The visa will reportedly be valid for six months or slightly longer but still no more than a year — along with the ability to work, this allows some to stay beyond the 90-day tourist period typically afforded to those from countries with visa-free agreements.

'Not be given a residence card of residence certificate'

While one will be able to reapply for the visa after the time runs out, this can only be done by exiting the country and being away for six months before coming back again — becoming a permanent resident on the pathway to citizenship is an entirely different process with much more strict requirements.

"Those living in Japan with the digital nomad visa will not be given a residence card or a residence certificate, which provide access to certain government benefits," reports the news outlet. "The visa cannot be renewed and must be reapplied for, with this only possible six months after leaving the countr

The visa will reportedly start in March and also allow holders to bring their spouses and families with them. To start using the visa, holders will also need to purchase private health insurance from their home country while taxes on any money one earns will also need to be paid through one's home country.

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