Facebook has targeted and removed a Russian disinformation campaign that claimed that coronavirus vaccines could turn people into chimpanzees.
Facebook took down 65 Facebook accounts and 243 Instagram accounts that were connected to the misinformation campaign, according to a report released by the company on Tuesday.
A subsidiary of a United Kingdom-registered marketing firm called Fazze was found to be behind the campaign that targeted users in India, Latin America and the United States, although the campaign to the U.S. was much smaller. The company is now permanently banned from the platforms.
Fazze spent around $200 for ads on Instagram and Facebook, with 24,000 accounts following their Instagram accounts.
The campaign included misinformation posts with one example Facebook included in the report saying “astrazeneca created a vaccine based on chimpanzee genes, when tests showed side effects, this vaccine should be banned, otherwise we will all become chimpanzees.”
This campaign was not only on Facebook and Instagram but spread to other platforms such as Reddit, Medium and Change.org. The posts had little success, according to the report.
The campaign fell apart after the company asked influencers to promote their content. A French and German influencer told authorities, which investigated the matter and discovered Russian influence.
“As part of disrupting this operation, we took down their accounts, including authentic assets of the people behind this network, and blocked domains associated with their activity. We also notified people who we believe may have been contacted by this network and shared our findings with law enforcement, independent researchers, policy-makers and our industry peers so they too can take action if they find violating activity,” the report states.
The report comes at a time when pressure is high on Facebook to fight vaccine misinformation due to a lag in the number of people getting the vaccine.