Facebook bans anti-vax misinformation campaign

Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts after identifying an anti-vax misinformation campaign operating out of Russia.

The company said that it took down 65 Facebook accounts and 243 Instagram accounts from Russia it linked to Fazze, a subsidiary of a UK-registered marketing firm, whose operations were primarily conducted from Russia.

Fazze is now banned from the platform.

According to the platform, the crux of the operation had been to engage influencers with pre-existing audiences on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok to post content and use particular hashtags without disclosing the origin of the posts.

The use of influencers appears to be in line with the marketing firm’s advertised services, which include access to “a large list of bloggers from YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.”

The social media giant said that the campaign took place in two distinct waves, separated by five months of inactivity.

In November and December 2020, the network posted memes and comments claiming that the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine would turn people into chimpanzees.

In May 2021, the campaign questioned the safety of the Pfizer vaccine by posting an allegedly hacked and leaked AstraZeneca document.

Facebook said that both phases coincided with periods when a number of governments, including in Latin America, India and the United States, were reportedly discussing the emergency authorisations for these respective vaccines.

“This campaign functioned as a disinformation laundromat,” wrote Facebook in its Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour Report. “It created misleading articles and petitions on multiple forums including Reddit, Medium, Change.org, and Medapply.co.uk.”

Facebook added that the network used fake accounts on social media, including Facebook and Instagram, “to seed and amplify this off-platform content, using crude spammy tactics.”

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