This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Facebook announced on August 10 that it had shut down a network of dozens of Facebook and Instagram accounts from Russia with connections to a marketing group that was trying to enlist social-media “influencers” to push false claims about COVID-19 vaccines.
Its investigators called the accounts connected to Fazze, a subsidiary of U.K.-registered marketing firm AdNow, which mostly operates out of Russia, a “disinformation laundromat.”
It cited its policies against foreign interference.
“We removed 65 Facebook accounts and 243 Instagram accounts from Russia that we linked to Fazze,” it said in its latest report outlining the social-media giant’s actions against inauthentic behavior, adding, “Fazze is now banned from our platform.”
The network was mostly using its influence to push anti-vax messages targeting audiences in India, Latin America, and, to a lesser extent, the United States.
Facebook and other social media have faced sharp criticism, including from U.S. President Joe Biden, for spreading lies about vaccination that hampers efforts around the world to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company said the Russia-linked Fazze operation had begun with groups of fake accounts set up in 2020 and likely originating from so-called account farms in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
It used memes and comments including one that claimed one Western vaccine would turn people into apes.
Facebook said multiple health and lifestyle influencers had shared its falsehoods.
Reuters said that neither Fazze nor AdNow could immediately be reached for comment.