Who is paying people to lie about vaccines?

Someone out there really wants people fighting about whether COVID-19 vaccines actually work.

An Associated Press report says that online “influencers” in France are being offered money by a shady “ad agency” to produce content alleging that the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 is unsafe:

Social media influencers in France with hundreds of thousands of followers say a mysterious advertising agency offered to pay them if they agreed to smear Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine with negative fake stories.

French YouTuber Leo Grasset was among those contacted. He said Tuesday that he was offered a potentially lucrative but also 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.

Grasset, who has 1.1 million subscribers on YouTube, says he refused. Other France-based influencers with sizable audiences on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms also said they were contacted with similar offers of payment for posts.

The person who contacted Grasset identified himself as Anton and said his agency has a "quite considerable" budget for what he described as an "information campaign" about "COVID-19 and the vaccines offered to the European population, notably AstraZeneca and Pfizer."

Specifically, Anton asked for a 45- to 60-second video on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube to say that "the mortality rate of the Pfizer vaccine is 3 times greater than the AstraZeneca" and querying why the European Union is buying it.

"This is a monopoly and is causing harm to public health," Anton claimed of EU's purchases.

He refused in a follow-up email to divulge who is financing the disinformation campaign, saying: "The client prefers to remain incognito."

French intelligence has an idea who’s behind this.

If this is indeed a Russian operation, it’s interesting that they aren’t trying to make people promote Sputnik V as an alternative to Western vaccines. Maybe they figure it would be too obvious. The evil genius behind Russian online meddling is to support both sides of hot-button issues, to spur further division and chaos:

The report found that the IRA targeted African-Americans extensively. The IRA efforts "appear to have been focused on developing Black audiences and recruiting Black Americans as assets."

One of these accounts, the popular "Blacktivist" Facebook page, gathered 1.4 million reactions from viewers. It was popular among African-American activists and used racial issues — particularly police violence — to stoke outrage among viewers. In some cases, it also encouraged African-American voters to stay home and not vote. 

[…]

"Heart of Texas," which often posted right-targeted images, received 4.8 million shares from Facebook users. The account often shared anti-Clinton, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant posts while pretending to be a site dedicated to Texans. It even organized anti-Clinton and anti-immigrant rallies across the state. 

Some people might look at the anti-Pfizer messaging, which promotes the AstraZeneca vaccine as a safer alternative, and wonder if AstraZeneca or another vaccine maker might be behind it. Heck, even I’m wondering about it. The pharmaceutical industry has improved my life considerably, on balance, but it’s not like these companies don’t have some massive skeletons in their closets.

It’s hard to know what to believe. And that’s precisely the point.