US media is reporting that Russia’s anti-vaccine disinformation campaign has spilled over to Russia and is partly responsible for the high level of vaccine hesitancy among Russians. According to a Voice of America report:
November 18, 2021 For more than a year, Russian-aligned troll factories overseeing thousands of social media accounts have been accused by Western countries and disinformation experts of spreading anti-vaccine messages in an aggressive campaign to spread conspiracy theories and cast doubt on Western coronavirus vaccines. But the year-long offensive appears to have backfired. Russian officials now worry that the anti-vaccine skepticism encouraged by the troll factories has spilled over and is partly responsible for the high level of vaccine hesitancy among Russians. Only 35% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, despite the wide availability of the country’s home-grown Sputnik vaccine. Despite surging cases the uptake remains sluggish. Social network analysis company Graphika reported last month how Russia-aligned troll factories have recently been focusing on mandatory vaccination campaigns in the West seeking to undermine the effort to cajole more people to get jabbed. The U.S. Department of State last year started to warn that Russia-based propagandists were using social media platforms to spread conspiracy theories and to promote doubts around vaccinations. But anti-vaccination videos and postings on the Internet are attracting high traffic in Russia, too, with tens of thousands of views.
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The GIOR has extensively covered Russia’s anti-vaccine disinformation campaign in the West, including:
- Claims that Covid-19 vaccines turn people into chimpanzees and other conspiracy theories on vaccines’ efficacy.
- Conspiracy theories about the origins of Covid-19 used to sow distrust of the US government.
- Attempts by Russia-linked PR agencies to pay European social media influencers to spread Covid-19 vaccine disinformation.
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