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Facebook Deletes Anti-vaccine Influencers’ Accounts

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Facebook has shut down many accounts on its platform that it says were involved in anti-vaccine misinformation campaigns operated by Russia and has deleted their accounts.

The company said the network of accounts targeted India, the North American countries, and the US.

They tried to recruit additional influencers to unfold false claims to undermine public confidence about all Covid-19 vaccines, it added.

In its latest report on “coordinated counterfeit behaviour”, Facebook said it found some links between the network and a faux misinformation campaign from an influencer-selling agency called Fazze, which is an element of a Russian-based company known as AdNow.

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In its last trending investigation, the BBC news said influencers had been offered cash by Fazze to make false claims regarding the risks related to the Pfizer vaccine.

According to the social media platform, this happened to be the second wave of an attempt by Fazze to smear Western vaccines.

Their investigation discovered that from Nov 2020 to Nov 2020, identical networks tried to color the AstraZeneca vaccine in bad light, claiming it was dangerous as a result of its use of a harmless animal virus taken from chimpanzees.

Posts from accounts within the network unfold memes that use pictures from the Planet of Apes movies to offer the impression that the vaccine is capable of turning its users into monkeys.

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These posts appeared on the social media platform in Hindi around the same time the Indian government was discussing emergency authorisation for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Ben Nimmo, The social media platform’s Threat Intelligence Lead, said the platfoem had removed sixty-five (65) Facebook accounts and 243 Instagram accounts for violating their policy against foreign interference. He delineates the campaign as “a misinformation laundromat”.

This misinformation operation spanned over a dozen platforms. Deceptive posts appeared on Reddit and Medium, and petitions appeared on Change.org expressing concern regarding the protection of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

According to Facebook’s report, these links were then shared by some influencers on Instagram who used identical hashtags and created references to the actual fact that the AstraZeneca vaccine was derived from adenovirus.

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Unfortunately, each wave of the campaign was unsuccessful and didn’t gain a lot of traction, despite the various ways adopted.

Despite the most effective efforts of the campaign, Facebook’s report ascertained sloppy practices, together with mixture languages -like posting Hindi language memes in the midst of hashtags in Portuguese.

Investigations have fingered Fazze, which was a part of a Russian company called AdNow. All efforts to induce the headquarters of the Russian company yielded no result. However, in response to accusations by German politicians that discrediting Western vaccines was within the interests of the Kremlin, the Russian Embassy within the United Kingdom said: “We treat COVID-19 as a worldwide threat and, thus, don’t seem to be fascinated by undermining international efforts in the fight against it, with vaccinating people with the Pfizer vaccine as one of the ways to cope with the virus.”

However, a director of AdNow’s British arm told the BBC that Fazze was being finished off.

Facebook says Fazze is currently illegal and has been banned from their platform.

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