February 14, 2022 | The Guardian

French antivaxxers are discreetly purchasing fake COVID-19 health passes on Telegram

ISD’s Zoé Fourel spoke with the Guardian about our findings on the online market for fake COVID-19 health passes that is spreading across the French online space. Users are being redirected from mainstream platforms like Facebook and Instagram to Telegram where they are finding discreet, encrypted sales of these fake passes that are valid all around the European Union. This raises concerns around mainstream algorithms’ role in prompting and promoting these pages and other far-right, anti-government online spaces to users who already follow similar accounts.

When asked about the specific platforms Zoé, one of the co-authors that led the study said: “For Instagram, one of the most alarming things we observed was that its algorithm is actually recommending accounts that are offering fake sanitary or vaccination services, so if you are a person who is following a couple of accounts with COVID disinformation or anti-vax content, your algorithm will recommend more accounts offering fake passes […]. There is a really large issue here with the business model and the design of the platform and how it operates.”

In France, these passes were approved by the government to be used to exclude unvaccinated individuals from public spaces like restaurants, and larger venues.