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French YouTube influencer 'offered cash to spread vaccine disinformation'

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By Hebe Campbell
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The YouTube app on an Ipad   -   Copyright  Patrick Semansky/Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A YouTube blogger from France has claimed a PR company offered him money to spread COVID-19 vaccine disinformation to his 1.17 million subscribers.

Leo Grasset, who goes by the name "DirtyBiology" online, was told the company had a "considerable" amount of money behind the project.

Grasset shared e-mails with Euronews that show a proposition from someone claiming to work for a UK-based PR company.

They refer to an opportunity regarding an "informational campaign" and asked the blogger to push false claims either on Youtube, TikTok or Instagram that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is three times more lethal than the AstraZeneca one.

The company also wanted him to question why the European Union and governments were buying the Pfizer vaccine in large quantities and was told to discourage people from believing mainstream media.

The firm did not want the videos to be branded nor would they tell him the name of the client behind the project.

Grasset, who plans to get his COVID-19 vaccine as soon as he is eligible, told Euronews "One of the main points of this campaign was to act as if I was discovering something myself that the media would not cover... because there is this huge plot."

A brief sent to Grasset from the person claiming to work for a PR company, and seen by Euronews, read: "Do not use the words 'advertising', 'sponsored video', etc. in your posts, stories and videos! They should look like advice to the audience.

"Present the material natively. Act like you have the passion and interest in this topic. Present the material as your own independent view."

Grasset claims the London address given by the agency is not accurate, nor is the firm registered as a UK company.

"All employees have weird LinkedIn profiles... which have been missing since this morning. Everyone has worked in Russia before," Grasset tweeted on Monday.

"There is no regulation whatsoever, there is no institution that watches what we [influencers] are doing... so I hope this will shed some light on the problem." Grasset told Euronews.

"We [influencers] have a responsibility, we have audiences we can manipulate - like it or not."