COVID-19: Firm misinforming people that Pfizer vaccine turns them to chimpanzees gets Facebook ban

Social media giant, Facebook, has banned a firm for spreading false information about the Pfizer vaccine.

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Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts linked to a COVID-19 vaccine disinformation network operating out of Russia. The mysterious advertising agency called Fazze sought to pay social media influencers to repost misleading content about vaccines made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

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However, their plot was uncovered after influencers in France and Germany exposed offers they had been sent. The network used fake accounts to spread false claims about the safety of the vaccines, including one which said AstraZeneca's vaccine would turn a person into a chimpanzee.

A total of 65 Facebook profiles and 243 Instagram accounts were traced back to Fazze, which is registered in the UK, and the firm was banned from all of the social media giant's platforms. Facebook said Fazze's work was primarily done from Russia on behalf of an unknown client and targeted audiences in India, Latin America, and the US, but to a lesser extent.

Sloppy campaign

The company's head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said that although Fazze's campaign was 'sloppy', it was noteworthy because of its effort to enlist social media influencers. Facebook investigators say some influencers did post the material but later deleted it when stories about Fazze's work began to emerge.

French YouTuber, Leo Grasset, was among those contacted and told the Associated Press in May that he was asked to post a 45 to 60-second video on Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube criticising the mortality rate of Pfizer's vaccine. When he asked Fazze to identify their client, the firm declined so he refused the offer and decided to go public with his concerns.

Russia has been actively marketing its own COVID-19vaccine, Sputnik V, in other countries in what some analysts see as an effort to score geopolitical points. However, Facebook representatives did not speculate on the possible motivation behind the smear campaign.

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