But it asked the influencers to push not beauty products or vacation packages, as is typical, but falsehoods tarring Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine. Stranger still, the agency, Fazze, claimed a London address where there is no evidence any such company exists.
The scheme appears to be part of a secretive industry that security analysts and U.S. officials say is exploding in scale: disinformation for hire.
Private firms, straddling traditional marketing and the shadow world of geopolitical influence operations, are selling services once conducted principally by intelligence agencies.
"Disinfo-for-hire actors being employed by government or government-adjacent actors is growing and serious," said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, calling it "a boom industry."
For-hire disinformation, though only sometimes effective, is growing more sophisticated as practitioners iterate and learn. Experts say it is becoming more common in every part of the world, outpacing operations conducted directly by governments.
The trend emerged after the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, experts say. Cambridge, a political consulting firm linked to members of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, was found to have harvested data on millions of Facebook users.
Why Are There More Successful Older Golfers Today? 成功的資深高球選手變多
From the 18th fairway in the final group of the British Open in 2009, Tom Watson, the five-time Open champion, hit a shot that flew right at the pin. For a moment, it looked like Watson, then age 59, would win the tournament for a record sixth time and become the oldest player to win a major championship.
A firm bounce sent the ball off the back of the green, and Watson needed three more shots to get the ball into the hole. That dropped him into a tie for first. In the four-hole playoff, he ran out of gas and lost by six shots.
A decade ago, the idea of an older golfer contending in, let alone winning, a major championship was something few considered. That was still the time when most golfers petered out in their mid-40s and kicked around the golf world before having a brief resurgence on the Champions Tour when they turned 50.
Leading these middle-age mavericks is Phil Mickelson, 51, won the PGA Championship in May. He beat Brooks Koepka, a four-time major winner, and Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, who are both in their 30s.
"All these guys have taken a new approach," said Dave Phillips, co-founder of the Titleist Performance Institute, which focuses on golf and fitness. "There's a lot of money out there. They realize they can still compete with the younger guys, but they need to spend more time on their body and what they fuel their body with."
Phillips said what Mickelson and the others were doing provided lessons for older golfers. "It's not strength, but the recovery and the downtime that matter," he said. "It's letting your body recover. Everyone wants to get fitter, stronger, faster. They're upset when they don't see the results. But what they're doing is fatiguing to the body more so than a round of golf."
Crucial for older players? Maintain leg strength, Phillips said, and that means walk, don't ride, when you play golf.
It is experience, for sure, but that is a double-edged sword: With age, players are more knowledgeable about the nuances of the game and have, in theory, a better psychological understanding of what to do. But they have also failed to do that in similar moments in the past.