Facebook has stopped an international campaign to spread false information about corona vaccinations. As the company said on Tuesday, a Russian advertising agency tried to smear fake news on various online platforms. The campaign attracted attention after influencers in Germany and France did research and sounded the alarm.
The Russian company Fazze was behind the campaign. This had operated a “false information washing system”, said Facebook. The aim was for trustworthy people to share disinformation online with a large following.
The campaign aimed primarily at India and Latin America, but also the USA. It was about bringing corona vaccines into disrepute, the approval of which was just being debated.
The hope was that the influencers would not do their “homework”, said Ben Nimmo, who is responsible for tracking down false information at Facebook. Two of the influencers contacted had investigated. “It’s really a warning,” said Nimmo, appealing to the influencers: “Be careful if someone wants to sell you a story. Do your own research ”.
The company said it had removed 65 Facebook accounts and 243 Instagram accounts related to the campaign in July. In addition, Fazze had been banned from the platforms.
The misinformation campaign therefore had several stages: At the end of last year, it was primarily aimed at the AstraZeneca vaccine. Fake accounts shared a banner claiming the vaccine would turn people into chimps. A few months later, BioNTech and Pfizer’s vaccine was also attacked. Attempts were also made to distribute a document allegedly leaked in a hacking attack on AstraZeneca.
Self-created articles as sources
The organizers not only used Facebook’s platforms, but also created misleading articles and online petitions on Reddit, Medium and Change.org. Fazze then e-mailed references to these articles to the influencers, a few of whom sounded the alarm and thus brought journalists on the trail of the campaign.
According to media reports, Fazze is a subsidiary of AdNow, a UK-registered advertising company. Facebook does not know who hired the company for the misinformation campaign, said Nathaniel Gleicher, who is responsible for the security strategy. Facebook shared its findings with the responsible authorities and other platforms.
According to the company, the campaign had little overall success. Photos on Instagram received little support and petitions made in English and Hindi received fewer than 1,000 signatures each.
According to Facebook, there are increasing campaigns that use influencers to spread false information. The company is currently arguing with the American government about how fake news about the corona pandemic can be contained. Meanwhile, the government itself is relying on influencers to convince people of corona vaccinations.
Twitter bans MPs
The Internet service Twitter also blocked American Congressman Marjorie Taylor Greene on Tuesday due to false claims about Covid vaccinations. This had claimed in a tweet on Monday that the vaccines had “failed” and would not help contain the coronavirus. The supporter of the former President Donald Trump was banned for a week, according to the company “for repeated disregard of the Twitter rules”.
If the Republican breaks the rules again, she faces a permanent ban. The politician accused Twitter of banning her for telling the “truth” and tweeting what “a lot of people are saying”.