On Wednesday, Meta removed a tampered video purporting to show Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ordering troops to surrender.
The video is the next worrying milestone in Russia’s parallel information war with neighbouring Ukraine, but it was a moment that Ukraine’s government and social media corporations appear to have anticipated.
Meta’s Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher noted that the clip was banned because it violated the company’s rules on “manipulated media,” a type of multimedia misinformation that often takes the form of video modified to show a public figure saying something they never uttered.
The false video was quickly spotted by Meta, according to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, but it is already flowing freely on Facebook’s Russian counterpart VKontakte.
DFRLab also noticed that a pro-Russia Telegram channel posted a deepfake of Zelensky asking for the country to surrender on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Ukraine 24 stated that their news ticker had been hacked for the same reason. The ticker displayed a message apparently from Zelensky, urging Ukrainians to abandon their resistance to Russian invading forces.
Ukraine’s president quickly responded to the misinformation with his own Telegram message, which was shot in the same selfie video style as Zelensky’s communications since the invasion began.
Digging In More Details
Russia may use manipulated recordings to mislead public opinion of its invasion, Ukraine’s Centre for Strategic Communications warned in early March. The institute, which is part of Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, focuses on “[countering] foreign threats, in particular Russian Federation information attacks.”
“Imagine watching Vladimir Zelensky on TV making a surrender statement,” the organization wrote on its Facebook page on March 2. “It’s true because you see it and hear it.” However, this is not the case… Be cautious — this is a hoax!”