Several prominent French and German health-focused YouTubers say they were offered substantial payments by an apparently shifty PR agency to spread disinformation about the Pfizer COVID vaccine.
The Guardian reports that the payments were proffered by a U.K.-based PR agency called Fazze, which apparently has ties to Russia (per various indicators on its LinkedIn profile), and which sought to spread word that the Pfizer vaccine had resulted in hundreds of deaths. The agency also asked influencers to share links in their paid posts to reports substantiating these false claims.
The Guardian notes that an EU study concluded last month that Russia and China were engaging in state-sponsored PR campaigns to engender distrust in western vaccines in order to promote their own.
“It’s pathetic, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible, and it doesn’t work,” French health minister Olivier Veran said of the recently-uncovered influencer campaign, per the AP.
French science YouTuber Leo Grasset, whose DirtyBiology channel counts 1.2 million subscribers, shared the pitch emails on Twitter (see below), claiming that Fazze offered him a “colossal” payment while refusing to identify its client behind the ask. German creator Mirko Drotschman, who counts 1.5 million subscribers, also shared a screenshot of the pitch email he’d received. Both were naturally skeptical of the pitch and declined to participate.
The Guardian notes that, as news of the offers went wide, Fazze shuttered its website and took its Instagram account private.
J’ai reçu une proposition de partenariat qui consiste à déglinguer le vaccin Pfizer en vidéo. Budget colossal, client qui veut rester incognito et il faut cacher la sponso.
Éthique/20. Si vous voyez des vidéos là dessus vous saurez que c’est une opé, du coup. pic.twitter.com/sl3ur9QuSu
— Léo Grasset (@dirtybiology) May 24, 2021