Zelensky Deepfake Tells Ukrainians To ‘lay down arms’

Currently  appearing on social media are numerous deepfaked news reports apparently from Ukraine's President Zelensky and one calling on citizens to “lay down arms”.

One deepfake video purports to show Zelensky declaring that Ukraine has “decided to return Donbas” to Russia and that his nation’s efforts had failed. The deepfake purports to show Zelensky declaring that Ukraine has “decided to return Donbas” to Russia and that his nation’s efforts had failed. 

This was first  posted to a hacked Ukrainian news website, TV24, then widely shared across social networks, including Facebook and Twitter

Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Security Policy for Facebook owner Meta, wrote in a tweet. “Earlier today, our teams identified and removed a deepfake video claiming to show President Zelensky issuing a statement he never did... It appeared on a reportedly compromised website and then started showing across the Internet.”

The deepfake itself is poorly executed, with the fake Zelensky having a comically large and noticeably pixelated head compared to the rest of his body.

It shouldn’t have fooled anyone, but Zelensky published a video to his Instagram to call out the fake anyway. “I only advise that the troops of the Russian Federation lay down their arms and return home,” Zelensky said in his official video. “We are at home and defending Ukraine.” 

Earlier this month, the Ukrainian government posted a statement warning soldiers and civilians not to believe any videos of Zelensky claiming to surrender. “Imagine seeing Vladimir Zelensky on TV making a surrender statement. You see it, you hear it – so it’s true. But this is not the truth. This is deepfake technology. This will not be a real video, but created through machine learning algorithms - videos made through such technologies are almost impossible to distinguish from the real ones. The goal is to disorient, sow panic, disbelieve citizens, and incite our troops to retreat.

Fortunately, the Zelensky deepfake was quite easy to distinguish and could actually help to raise awareness of how such content is used to influence and manipulate.

Recently Facebook and Twitter removed two anti-Ukrainian hake news pieces linked to Russia and Belarus. One of the campaigns even used AI-generated faces for a fake “editor-in-chief” and “columnist” for a linked propaganda website. Both cases in the past month show the danger of deepfakes and the importance of raising public awareness and developing tools for countering such content before it’s able to spread.

Twitter / @Shayan86     Twitter / Nathanial Gleicher:    AINews:   Facebook:    Instagram

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