On Wednesday, a video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy deepfake telling soldiers to surrender appeared. The clip is the latest worrisome development in Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, but it was something Ukraine’s government and social media companies were apparently ready for.
Zelenskyy deepfake video taken down
The content was removed by Meta for breaking the company’s rules against “manipulated media,” a type of multimedia misinformation that frequently appears as video footage altered to show a public figure saying something they never actually said, according to Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Security Policy at the company.
2/ We've quickly reviewed and removed this video for violating our policy against misleading manipulated media, and notified our peers at other platforms.
— Nathaniel Gleicher (@ngleicher) March 16, 2022
The misleading video was intercepted by Meta fairly quickly but is apparently circulating widely on Facebook’s Russian counterpart VKontakte. It was also discovered that a pro-Russia Telegram channel published a deepfake depicting Zelenskyy urging the country to surrender on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the Ukrainian state-owned television network Ukraine 24 also claimed that its news ticker had been hacked. The ticker displayed a Zelenskyy deepfake video urging Ukrainians to stop fighting against invading Russian troops.
❗️ Russian hybrid warfare in action. Ukraine 24 TV channel was hacked: the news ticker started displaying President Zelenskyy's fake "capitulation" address. @ZelenskyyUa has already refuted the fake, stating the only people he can offer to lay down arms is the Russian troops. pic.twitter.com/MaZjk2hGzA
— Stratcom Centre UA (@StratcomCentre) March 16, 2022
Ukraine’s president responded swiftly to the Zelenskyy deepfake video with his own video on Telegram, also shot in the same selfie video style that has characterized Zelenskyy’s messages since the beginning of the invasion, saying:
“Regarding the last childish provocation, that I’m offering to lay down arms. I can offer to lay down arms only to the militaries of the Russian Federation and to return home. And we are at home already. We defend our land, our children, our families. And we absolutely are not going to lay down our arms. Till our victory.”
On March 2, Ukraine’s military land forces released a warning about deepfake videos:
“Imagine seeing Volodymyr 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 real ones.”