WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has identified three online publications led by Russian intelligence that it says is seeking to undermine the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna, a State Department spokesman said Sunday.
The outlets are spreading many types of misinformation, including about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as well as international organizations, military conflicts, protests and any dispute they may use, “the spokeswoman said.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) first reported the identification of the alleged campaign on Sunday. A Kremlin spokesman denied the US claim that Russia was spreading false information about vaccines to the WSJ.
Russia approved its Sputnik V vaccine in August before launching a large-scale trial, saying it was the first country to do so to fire COVID-19. Reviewed experiments months later proved that it was almost 92% effective in fighting the virus.
New York-based Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech are producing the first vaccine approved in the United States, which regulators approved in December. The second, made by Moderna, based in Massachusetts, was approved later that month.
The State Department’s Global Engagement Center, set up to counter propaganda and disinformation campaigns, has identified the three sites, the spokeswoman said.
The News Front is controlled by Russia’s Federal Security Service, the center found. New Eastern Outlook and Oriental Review are led and controlled by Russia’s foreign intelligence service.
The fourth exit, Rebel Inside, controlled by the Russian military, has also been announced by the center, but is largely dormant, the spokesman said.
“The department will continue to expose Russia’s wicked actions online,” she added. “We will also continue to work closely with our allies and partners to provide a global response to countering misinformation.”
Report by Simon Lewis; Edited by Heather Timmons and Lincoln Fest.