Facebook has banned the marketing firm because of its involvement in disinformation campaign who used influencers and fake accounts to undermine the COVID-19 vaccine. The company removed 65 Facebook accounts and 243 Instagram accounts associated with the campaign, which also engaged unintentional influences to reinforce its message.
According to Facebook, the network “originates from Russia” but was linked to Fazze, a subsidiary of a UK-registered marketing firm doing business from Russia. The bills were primarily targeted at India and Latin America, although the United States was targeted and “to a much lesser extent”. The campaign came in “two different waves”, according to Facebook.
“First, in November and December 2020, the network published memes and comments claiming that the AstraZenec COVID-19 vaccine would turn humans into chimpanzees,” the company wrote in a report. “Five months later, in May 2021, it raised the question of the safety of the Pfizer vaccine by releasing an allegedly hacked and leaked AstraZenec document.” Facebook has not speculated about who hired Fazze or what their motives were, but Ben Nimmo, head of the global threat alert company for influence operations, noted that the activity “roughly coincided with times when regulators and some of the target countries were discussing on emergency approval “for each vaccine. “
In the end, the campaign was “sloppy” with “rather low” engagement, says Nimmo. The exception was paid posts by legitimate influencers who were caught in the campaign because those posts “attracted some limited attention”. However, they were influential people who exhibited in the campaign, after a handful publicly revealed that Fazze had offered to pay them to “claim that Pfizer’s vaccine against Covid-19 is lethal,” according to The New York Times.
Although Facebook regularly posts details about inauthentic behavior and foreign interference on its platform, this is one of the first to focus on vaccines against COVID-19. This topic has become a thorny issue for Facebook, as officials have done blamed social networks because they did not do enough to prevent the spread of misinformation about vaccines.
Speaking to reporters, Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher. said the efforts, although unsuccessful, point to disinformation campaigns are evolving. “Influence operations are increasingly spanning many platforms and targeting influential voices as running successful campaigns with a large number of fake accounts on a single network has become increasingly difficult,” he said.
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