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Russian vaccine disinformation campaign about Covishield, Pfizer targetted India: Facebook report

The campaign which originated in Russia and was launched in two phases sought to spread vaccine conspiracies like taking the shots would lead to humans turning into chimpanzees. Facebook's Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour report for July 2021 has revealed that while the Indian government was considering granting emergency approval to Oxford-AstraZeneca (or Covishield) and Pfizer vaccines, a vaccine disinformation campaign targetted India, among other countries. The report revealed that while the campaign did not have much reach, the social media platform took down 65 Facebook and 243 Instagram accounts (collectively followed by at least 24,000 people) related to the campaign. Disinformation spread through social media has been of particular concern to India with coordinated campaigns resulting in polarisation, violence, and even deaths. Online health misinformation amidst a pandemic, especially about life-saving vaccines, is extremely dangerous as it could also lead to deaths. Details about the campaign Where it originated: According to Facebook, the campaign originated in Russia and targetted audiences primarily in India, Latin America, and (to a much lesser extent) the United States. Its investigation reportedly found links between this campaign and Fazze, a subsidiary of a UK-registered marketing firm, whose operations were primarily conducted from Russia. Fazze has now been banned from Facebook. When it took place: The campaign took place in two phases - the first phase was in November and December 2020 when the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was being considered for emergency approval in India while the second phase was in May 2021 when the Pfizer vaccine was being…

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I cover health technology for MediaNama but, really, love all things tech policy. Always willing to chat with a reader! Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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