Facebook removes Russians who paid Brazil’s YouTuber for antivaccine videos | Applications and Software

The Russian marketing agency that paid influencers to spread disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines was banned from Facebook. In its latest report on inauthentic behavior, the social network warns that it has removed 308 fake profiles associated with Fazze. Brazilian YouTuber Everson Zoio is identified by investigations as one of the influencers hired by the agency. He made the video in which he criticized the AstraZeneca vaccine private.

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YouTuber made video criticizing the vaccine “private”

According to investigations conducted by Facebook itself, Fazze’s network of fake paid profiles operated in more than a dozen online forums. It has its origins in Russia — where the marketing agency has its headquarters, with 66% of employees being Russian — and had as its main targets audiences in India and Latin America.

Among the influencers who were part of this campaign in Latin America is the Brazilian YouTuber Everson Zoio, with 13 million subscribers to his channel on the platform, in addition to 3 million followers on Instagram.

In a video, Everson even criticized Oxford’s AstraZeneca vaccine on the grounds that it was less effective than other immunizers and that using a harmless chimpanzee adenovirus to trigger an immune reaction was suspect.

AstraZeneca’s immunizer, however, is 100% effective in treating severe cases of COVID-19, according to the University of Oxford, UK.

Everson has made the video questioning the effectiveness of AstraZeneca’s vaccine private: when you can only view the file via a direct link. Before, he had already deleted a video in which he criticizes Pfizer’s immunizing agent.

YouTuber Everson Zoio made contact with Fazze to question the effectiveness of vaccines against COVID-19 (Image: Reproduction)

YouTuber Everson Zoio made contact with Fazze to question the effectiveness of vaccines against COVID-19 (Image: Reproduction/Everson Zoio)

Russians attacked AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines

Coincidentally, Facebook points out that Fazze’s campaign with vaccine attacks had two distinct phases: in the first, fake profiles, mainly in India, posted memes that AstraZeneca’s immunizer turned people into primates between December and November 2020; the second wave of publications, in May 2021, targeted the Pfizer vaccine, through an alleged leaked AstraZeneca document that pointed to a higher number of deaths among those who received doses from Pfizer.

Facebook points out that the inauthentic profiles were created on “account farms”. In the case of India, for example, users were from Bangladesh and Pakistan, but they pretended to be Indians.

Sometimes Instagram posts made by these profiles contained memes in Hindu, but the account had a name and English, and the hashtags were in Portuguese. The activity of inauthentic accounts on the social network was “rudimentary” as defined by Facebook.

Post on instagram with meme written in hindu, and hashtag in portuguese, made by a user whose name was written in english

Instagram post with a meme written in Hindi, and a hashtag in Portuguese, made by a user whose name was written in English (Image: Facebook/Disclosure)

During the first phase of the disinformation campaign, which criticized the AstraZeneca vaccine, between December 14 and 24, 10,000 posts were collected by the investigation. But Facebook points out that it has not had the expected success and engagement, despite the high volume of posts. About 24,000 people followed Instagram accounts involved with Fazze.

In addition to Facebook and Instagram, investigations show that the disinformation network acted on other sites and discussion forums, such as Reddit and Medium. Two petitions on the Change.org platform were created to spread the vaccine rumors, one in Hindi and one in English; the first had just over 900 signatures, while the second had no more than 600 signatories.

Fazze is linked to Russian digital marketing company AdNow. It has a branch in the UK and employees in Latin America, one of them representing the brand in Brazil. Neither Adnow nor Fazze responded to attempts to contact the Techblog.

YouTuber Everson Zoio also did not respond to the report until publication time.

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