Fake footage of Zelenskyy surrendering circulates amid warning of Russian-made ‘deepfake’ videos

If you see a video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy surrendering to Russian invaders, don’t believe your lying eyes: It’s a “deepfake” and Ukraine warned the world about them earlier this month.

“Imagine seeing [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy on TV making a surrender statement,” the Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security posted on Facebook on March 2. “You see it, you hear it — so it’s true. But this is not the truth. This is deepfake technology.”

The post, translated online, states, “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.”

“Be aware — this is fake!” the Ukrainian official cautioned. “[Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] goal is to disorient, sow panic, disbelieve citizens and incite our troops to retreat.”

“Rest assured,” the post promises, “Ukraine will not capitulate!”

The warning was posted to Facebook because, as Reuters reported, the agency’s official government website were one of many rendered inaccessible during a cyberattack.

Well, it now seems that Snopes has identified and debunked just such a video.

“A poorly done deepfake video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asking civilians to lay down their arms to the Russian military was cirulated on social media in March 2022,” Snopes reports. “In addition to getting some views on social media, a summary of this video was also broadcast on a Ukrainian news station after it was reportedly hacked.”

President Zelenskyy immediately took to social media to denounce the video as a fake.

“This likely isn’t the last deepfake video we will encounter during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” cautions Snopes, adding that  Zelenskyy’s ill-fitting head was a sure sign the footage was fake.

To be certain of any video’s authenticity, however, Snopes states you should always check the source.

“Zelenskyy has recorded several videos using the same background on his social media profiles and on the official social media pages of the Ukrainian government,” Snopes writes. “This deepfake, needless to say, was never posted to these pages.”

Should you question a video’s veracity, the fact-checking site suggests taking a screenshot and using a reverse-image search, such as those offered by Google Images and TinEye.

But the entire incident only serves to highlight a serious concern for the people of the world who suddenly find themselves in the middle of the world’s first digital battleground: Who can you trust?

The sea of propaganda that has so far defined much of this war has utilized technological advancements not previously available to past adversaries, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate truth from fiction.

And when a society cannot discern truth from fiction, conspiracies — or rumors of conspiracies — are sure to follow.

Especially on Twitter.

“Is the Russian government still this far behind everyone else in media manipulation, or are non-government entities doing this to make the Russian government entities doing this to make the Russian government look stupid and deceitful?” questioned one user.

“Is it a deep fake?” asked another, “or is this the media narrative making sh*t up to sell us that nuclear war is good for us??”

“It’s implied, with zero evidence, that #Russia put out this ‘crap’ deepfake,” another stated. “More DARVO psyop propaganda from #Ukraine I reckon. Pathetic.”




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Melissa Fine


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