Facebook announced on Tuesday (10) that it had dismantled a coordinated anti-vaccine content network operating in Russia and attacking countries in Latin America, including Brazil, as well as India and the United States with false information. The group disseminated alleged science reports, petitions and memes via influencers on multiple social networks at the same time.
So-called “coordinated networks of inauthentic behavior” are eliminated by the business because of the way they fit together, not necessarily the content. The social network defines them as “national non-government campaigns that include groups of accounts and pages that seek to deceive people” operating through fake and genuine accounts. In this case, it was a network with foreign interference.
The fake content relating to the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines was exploited by a network of 65 Facebook accounts and 243 Instagram accounts, which also operated on a dozen internet platforms and forums. The main target of the action was India, Latin America and, to a lesser extent, the United States, the company says.
Facebook’s internal investigation revealed a link between this Russian campaign and a UK-registered marketing company called Fazze whose accounts were banned from the platform.
One of the memes that circulated in November and December claimed that AstraZeneca had turned people into chimpanzees. This type of comparison was used by President Jair Bolsonaro who, at the end of last year, when asked about not having reached a deal with the manufacturer Pfizer, said it was not his responsibility if people became alligators.
“If you turn into a flea … into an alligator, that’s your problem, man! I’m not going to talk to another animal because they’ll think I’m going to talk nonsense here, right?” he said.
“In November and December 2020, the network posted memes and comments claiming that the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 would turn people into chimpanzees. Five months later, in May 2021, he questioned the safety of Pfizer’s vaccine by posting an alleged AstraZeneca document that was allegedly hacked and leaked, “Facebook said in a meeting with reporters.
The company noted that “both phases coincided with periods when various governments, including those in Latin America, India and the United States, were discussing emergency clearances for these respective vaccines.”
The network is said to have created deceptive articles and petitions on various forums such as Reddit, Medium and Change Org. He then used fake social media accounts to plant and amplify this content, “using rudimentary spam tactics.”
The most important point of the campaign, according to the company, was to engage influencers with audiences already consolidated in these networks, on TikTok and YouTube. In its services, the marketing company announced that it has access to a large list of bloggers.
The Facebook report says that part of this campaign was unsuccessful and did not reach the target audience, with almost all of the posts on Instagram not receiving any likes. The English-language Change Org petition garnered around 550 signatures.
Only $ 200 (R $ 1,044) was spent on Facebook and Instagram ads.
In May of this year, the same operating network took over to spread lies about Pfizer, such as one that allegedly caused a “death rate” far higher than that of other vaccines.
Operational activity on the platform appeared to be limited to a few dozen English-language Facebook posts that primarily targeted pages and groups in the United States that received almost no response, and a single post made by an influencer in Brazil. “Facebook said. When questioned, the company did not disclose the name of the influencer.
This phase coincided with the period when the European Medicines Agency and Brazil were discussing the approval of Pfizer’s vaccine for adolescents.
According to Facebook, the attempt to reach influencers caused the operation to fail. Two influencers, a German and a French, denounced the campaign and denied receiving Fazze, who would pay 2,000 euros (around R $ 12,000).
The marketing company has removed most of its fake articles, and employees have removed references to Fazze from their social media profiles.
Since the start of the pandemic, social networks have been targeted by governments and lawmakers due to the circulation of fake content on their platforms. Facebook, Twitter and other networks have started to tag or remove posts based on a public health protection policy, giving more visibility to WHO (World Health Organization) content , official agencies and journalistic vehicles.
The change was insufficient in the face of criticism. Covid’s CPI did not set a date, but said it would use big tech to testify to the maintenance of misleading information about Covid. In July, YouTube deleted 14 lives from Bolsonaro for challenging his policy on accurate medical information on the disease.
US President Joe Biden recently said the platforms are “killing people”, suggesting that companies have a responsibility to refuse the vaccine.