They insulted doctors, journalists and elected officials, calling them supporters of the Nazis for promoting vaccines against COVID-19, assuring that compulsory vaccination would lead to a dictatorship of health, Mike Dvilyanski, director of emerging threats investigations, explained at a press conference.
He was referring to a network linked to the anti-vaccination movement dubbed
VV, which the Californian group accuses of having carried out a campaign of intimidation and mass harassment against personalities of health, media and politics, in Italy and in France.
The perpetrators of this operation coordinated in particular by means of the Telegram messaging system, where the volunteers had access to lists of people to target and to
training to escape automatic detection by Facebook.
Their tactics included leaving comments below victims’ posts rather than posting content and using slightly altered spellings, like
vaxcinati instead of
vaccinati to say
vaccinated people in Italian.
The social media giant said it was difficult to assess the reach and impact of the campaign, which took place across different platforms.
We have observed what appears to be a sprawling populist movement combining existing conspiratorial theories with anti-authoritarian narratives and a torrent of health misinformation., detail experts from Graphika, a company specializing in the analysis of social networks, in a report on this operation.
They believe that
VV unites some 20,000 supporters, some of whom have taken part in acts of vandalism against hospitals and operations to obstruct vaccination, by making medical appointments without honoring them, for example.
China and Russia in the crosshairs of Europe
Since the start of the pandemic, health misinformation has taken many forms, from fake health advice to so-called miracle cures, and other conspiracy theories, racist rhetoric and online scams.
Beyond personal beliefs, this false information is also widespread for political purposes.
As early as June 2020, the European Union called on digital platforms to react and, in an action plan presented by the head of European diplomacy, denounced the campaigns on the part of
some third countries, especially Russia and China, who
seek to undermine democratic debate and exacerbate the polarization of society.
Last March, the United States, for its part, accused Russia of carrying out disinformation operations online against two anti-COVID-19 vaccines.
False accounts and false biologist
Meta also said it dismantled an operation orchestrated from China that used fake accounts to promote false information.
They were amplifying posts posted on the profile of a trumped-up Swiss biologist who allegedly reported that the United States was pressuring the World Health Organization to put the blame for the coronavirus on China.
Chinese state media then quoted this bogus biologist.
It was like a gallery of mirrors that endlessly reflect a single false personality, notes Meta in a press release.
The Californian group has found links between the operation and employees of the Chinese cybersecurity company Sichuan Silence Information Technology Co. as well as people associated with other Chinese companies specializing in infrastructure.
This is the first time that we observe an operation that includes a coordinated group of state employees to serve as a sounding board in this way., notes Meta.
But the truth quickly came out and it hit the nail on the head, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s director of security regulations.