A deepfake video of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenksy calling on his country’s troops to surrender to Russian forces reportedly made it onto a hacked Ukrainian news site today after going viral on Facebook, The Daily Dot reports.
According to the report, it may be the first deepfake created to deceive opponents during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
While the video isn’t the cleanest or convincing example of deepfake technologies — it’s clearly not the real Zelenksy in the video as, for one, the head is far too big for the body — it’s an ominous example of a troubling new weapon in the arsenal of a world power: faked videos of statements made by enemy political leaders.
The real Zelenksy was quick to respond to the deepfake in a separate video posted to Facebook, calling for Russians to surrender instead.
“If I can offer someone to lay down their arms, it’s the Russian military,” he said in the video. “Go home. Because we’re home. We are defending our land, our children, and our families.”
According to disinformation watchdog the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), the video was aired on a hacked news program.
“This is a fake!” Ukrainian outlet wrote in an Instagram post, as translated by Google. “Friends, we have repeatedly warned about this. Nobody is going to give up.”
Facebook’s parent company Meta has since taken down the troubling video.
“Earlier today, our teams identified and removed a deepfake video claiming to show President Zelensky issuing a statement he never did,” the company’s head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher tweeted. “It appeared on a reportedly compromised website and then started showing across the internet.”
“We’ve quickly reviewed and removed this video for violating our policy against misleading manipulated media, and notified our peers at other platforms,” Gleicher added in a follow-up.
The topic of disinformation has hit fever pitch as Russian troops turn major Ukrainian cities into rubble. Hackers are waging a secondary war online, taking down government websites and interfering with military operations.
It’s not even the only deepfake video to surface today, with a similar video of a deepfaked Russian president Vladimir Putin declaring victory also making the rounds.
Meanwhile, Russia is shutting itself off from the world. The news comes after both Facebook and Instagram were completely blocked by Russian authorities earlier this month.
But without major social media platforms, Russia has cut off a massive distribution channel of its own state propaganda as well.
It’s unclear, notably, if the deepfake video actually had its targeted effect of sowing confusion or even convincing Ukrainians to surrender to the enemy. Whether a deepfake ever will remains an open question.
READ MORE: Hackers drop deepfake of Zelenskyy ordering troops to surrender on Ukrainian news site [Daily Dot]