As the world battles through the pandemic, an unknown entity is working in the shadows to spread fake news related to the COVID-19 vaccines. Some YouTube personalities recently exposed a plot designed to use them for rolling out COVID-19 vaccine disinformation on the internet.
According to YouTubers Mirko Drotschmann (Germany) and Léo Grasset (France), they received an offer from an influencer marketing agency called “Fazze.” The offer involved promoting self-proclaimed “leaked information” in exchange for money.
The skewed information suggested that the death rate among those who took the U.S. vaccine Pfizer was about three times more than among those who took the vaccine made by AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish firm.
Fazze’s proposal claimed that the manipulated vaccine insights were picked from a piece of news that Le Monde broke. However, the original story by the French publication doesn’t talk about vaccine-related deaths at all.
Additionally, the offer also asked YouTubers to share the false news as original content rather than sponsored, which, by the way, also goes against YouTube’s guidelines.
As it appears, this was an attempt to undermine people’s trust in the American COVID-19 vaccine. But, thanks to Drotschmann and Grasset’s commendable transparency, the plan was successfully foiled.
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However, unlike these two whistleblowers, a few YouTubers took the bait from Fazze. As BBC reports, YouTubers such as Ashkar Techy (India) and Everson Zoio (Brazil) accepted the offer and shared the disinformation. (Interestingly enough, Ashkar Techy’s channel is no longer there on YouTube. The owner said that it was “hacked.”)
In the end, those videos went offline soon after the exposé took place on Twitter. Several online articles that supported the same piece of fake news also went offline after the truth came out.
Finding The Source Of COVID-19 Vaccine Fake News
When BBC tried to reach Fazze’s parent company, AdNow, it couldn’t get any response. However, it managed to contact AdNow’s British branch in charge, Ewan Tolladay, who denied having anything to do with the controversy. The AdNow official continued, “we are doing the responsible thing and shutting down AdNow here in the UK.”
Moreover, Tolladay also tipped BBC on Fazze’s Russian head Stanislav Fesenko. He highlighted that Fesenko, who is currently unreachable, and an unknown person are the key figures behind the marketing agency.
Because of Fazze’s Russian connection, German politician Omid Nouripour alleged the Kremlin’s involvement in the disinformation plot. These allegations have since been denied by the Russian Embassy in London. It clarified, “We treat Covid-19 as a global threat and, thus, are not interested in undermining global efforts in the fight against it.”
Among all this controversy, it’s intriguing to see how the finger is only being pointed at Russia. That is because the false comparison between Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines was laid out in a way that benefits the British-Swedish vaccine more than Russia’s Sputnik-V, which wasn’t even a part of the conversation.
In any case, until we find out the origin of the vaccine plot, the speculations are likely to continue.