"This is a video game, General."
Four Star Gullible
Retired US four star general Barry McCaffrey, who also served as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under the Bill Clinton administration and makes regular TV appearances as an expert on military affairs, shared a video yesterday of what he said was a "Russian aircraft getting nailed by [Ukraine] missile defense" on Twitter — only to realize minutes later that the choppy footage came from a video game.
"Russians are losing large numbers of attack aircraft," McCaffrey argued in the now-deleted tweet. "Ukraine air defense becoming formidable."
The incident goes to show how quickly misinformation can disseminate online, particularly when it comes to geopolitical conflict.
Twitter users were quick to point out McCaffrey's blunder.
"This is a video game, General," one user wrote. "Very realistic but a good lesson to verify sources/material before posting online."
The video, which has been uploaded countless times to a number of social media platforms, shows several computer generated fighter jets succumbing to air defense missiles.
The footage was recorded in the video game ARMA 3, a popular military tactical shooter from 2013.
It's far from the first time altered or misleading footage has spread like wildfire, particularly when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine.
Millions of people are sharing fake videos on TikTok about the war in Ukraine, as the BBC reported last month. Much of the footage comes from past conflicts or shows military drills, which ends up being presented as genuine and contemporary to tens of millions of people.
Social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter have clearly struggled to contain the spread of these misleading videos, as demonstrated by McCaffrey's post. McCaffrey, for his part, didn't tweet anything acknowledging the error.
It's a parallel conflict that itself may not end directly in bloodshed, but could end up swaying the minds of the larger population, an important weapon in the arsenal of superpowers like the US or Russia.
More on Ukraine: Elon Musk Alarmed by Threat From Russian Space Program Chief