Facebook has banned a marketing firm that originated in Russia after the social media company discovered that the firm used influencers and fake accounts for its COVID-19 vaccine disinformation campaign.

The campaign had 65 Facebook accounts and 243 Instagram accounts dedicated to spreading false claims about the vaccine. The firm was also caught recruiting influencers to write captions to help boost its message.

Facebook had investigated the pages and the messages of the fake accounts. 

Facebook Bans Marketing Firm for Vaccine Disinformation

The network was linked to Fazze, a marketing firm in the UK with connections in Russia. The fake accounts targeted Latin America and India. It also targeted the United States, but the influence is not as severe.

Facebook stated that the network posted comments and memes about AstraZeneca's vaccine last year, claiming to turn people into monkeys.

Also Read: Facebook Will Now Crack Down on 'Anti-Vaccination' Posts and Ads on Social Media

In May 2021, the network posted an allegedly leaked AstraZeneca document that questioned the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine, according to Engadget.

The social media giant did not reveal who they believe hired Fazze or what the motive was behind the fake accounts.

However, Ben Nimmo, the Global Threat Intelligence Lead for Influence Operations, stated that the memes and comments from the fake accounts were posted when Latin America, India, and the United States were discussing emergency authorization for COVID-19 vaccines.

Nimmo added that the anti-vaxx campaign had a low engagement. The only exception was the paid posts from influencers who were part of the campaign because they attracted attention.

However, it was the influencers who revealed the fraudulent activities of Fazze. According to The New York Times, Fazze had offered to pay them to claim that the COVID-19 vaccines can cause death.

Paying Influencers

German and French YouTubers, Instagram influencers, and bloggers have come forward and revealed that a U.K.-based PR agency had offered them money with Russian connections to tell their followers that the Pfizer vaccine is ineffective.

The firm instructed the influences to post links on YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram to reports in Le Monde, on the Ethical Hacker website, and on Reddit about an allegedly leaked report containing data to support their claim.

However, the Le Monde article was stolen by hackers, and it was posted on the Dark Web. It has no information on the vaccine's mortality rates.

The pages on Ethical Hacker and Reddit have been deleted.

The firm also asked the influencers to tell their followers and subscribers that the mainstream media "does not want to reveal the truth" and make the public doubt the government's push for the people to get the vaccine even though "it is dangerous to the health."

The marketing firm also instructed the influencers to avoid using "sponsored" and "advertising" whenever they post videos because they want the material to come off as their independent view.

The social media company's Head of Security Policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, stated that the revelation about Fazze just shows how disinformation campaigns are evolving.

Gleicher said that since it has become harder and harder to run a successful campaign in one network, anti-vaxxers are expanding by hiring influential voices to attract more followers, and they are now creating accounts on numerous platforms.

Facebook is working on stopping the spread of disinformation on the site as the government is pressuring the social media company to do more.

Related Article: Facebook Removes COVID-19 Vaccine False Claims, Debunked by Medical Experts to Prevent Imminent Harm

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Written by Sophie Webster

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