Facebook has removed a network of several hundred accounts in Russia associated with the Fazze, a subsidiary of UK-registered marketing firm AdNow, which primarily conducted its operations from Russia, for violating its policy against foreign interference. Facebook said the campaign used its platforms primarily to target audiences in India, Latin America and, to a smaller extent, the United States. This was reported by Reuters.
The company's investigators called the campaign a "disinformation laundromat," creating misleading articles and petitions on forums like Reddit, Medium and Change.org, and using fake accounts on platforms like Facebook and Instagram to amplify the content. Facebook said while the majority of the campaign fell flat, the crux of it appeared to be engaging with paid influencers and these posts attracted "some limited attention."
According to Facebook the Russia-linked operation started with the creation of batches of fake accounts in 2020, likely originating from account farms in Bangladesh and Pakistan, which posed as being based in India. It said the network posted memes and comments on its platforms in November and December 2020 claiming the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine would turn people into chimpanzees, often using scenes from the 1968 "Planet of the Apes" movie.
Facebook said that in May 2021, after five months of inactivity, the operation then started questioning the safety of the Pfizer vaccine by pushing an allegedly "hacked and leaked" AstraZeneca document. Facebook investigators said the two phases of activity coincided with periods when several governments were reportedly discussing emergency authorizations for the vaccines.