Influencers are being offered large amounts of money to spread smear stories about Pfizer’s Covid jab.
Several high profile YouTubers across Europe have reported receiving unsolicited approaches from an ad agency asking them to claim the American-made vaccine has caused three times more deaths than AstraZeneca equivalent.
French YouTuber Leo Grasset was among those contacted. He shared an email exchange with someone called ‘Anton’ who said he worked for an advertising agency called Fazze.
A website for Fazze used to give a London address but that had disappeared from the site on Tuesday. Companies House has no record of the firm being registered in the UK.
According to the LinkedIn profile of Fazze’s CEO, now deleted, the agency operates out of Moscow, Le Monde said.
Mr Grasset, who has 1.1 million subscribers on YouTube, said he was offered a hush-hush deal to make bogus claims that Pfizer’s vaccine poses a deadly risk and that regulators and mainstream media are covering up the supposed dangers.
He was asked to post a 45-to 60-second video on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube in which he was told to query why the EU was buying doses, given the supposedly high death rate.
Mr Grasset says he refused while other influencers with sizable audiences on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms also said they were contacted with similar offers of payment for posts.
Mirko Drotschman, a German podcaster with 1.5 million subscribers, posted a screenshot of an email asking him to take part in an ‘information campaign’ about ‘a significant number of deaths’ after the Pfizer jab.
Sami Ouladitto, a comedian with nearly 400,000 subscribers, reported a similar approach, as did Et Ca Se Dit Medecin (And They Call Themselves Doctors), a hospital intern with 84,000 followers on Instagram.
A trainee doctor in southern France with tens of thousands of followers who was also approached for the smear effort told French broadcaster BFMTV that he was offered more than 2,000 euros ($3,000) for a 30-second video post.
Mr Grasset said that given the large size of his YouTube following, he possibly might have earned tens of thousands of euros had he agreed to take part.
The person who contacted him said his agency has a ‘quite considerable’ budget for the campaign but refused to divulge who is financing it.
The smear effort drew a withering response from French Health Minister Olivier Veran.
‘It’s pathetic, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible and it doesn’t work,’ he said.
Anton’s emails included a password-protected link to a set of instructions in error-strewn English for the would-be campaign.
It said influencers who agreed to take part shouldn’t say that they were being sponsored and should instead ‘present the material as your own independent view.’
Other instructions were that influencers should say ‘that mainstream media ignores this theme’ and should ask why governments are purchasing Pfizer.
Mr Grasset said he decided not to take part because there were ‘too many red flags.’
He told the Associated Press that the disinformation campaign drives home the need for people ‘to be super, super cautious’ about what they see online.
‘We creators on YouTube, on internet, Instagram, et cetera, we are at the center of something going on like an information war,’ he said. ‘We, as creators, need to set our standards really high because it’s, I think, just the beginning.’
The AP sent emails requesting comment to a contact address listed on the website and to the email address used by Anton. Neither elicited an immediate response.
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