Facebook removes ‘deepfake’ video of Ukrainian president that called on country’s forces to surrender

Facebook has removed a deepfake video on its platform that claimed to show Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky urging his country’s troops to surrender to the invading Russian forces.

Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Meta, Facebook’s parent company, tweeted on Wednesday that the video was removed for violating the company’s policy against misleading manipulated media.

“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,” Mr Gleicher noted.

“We’ve quickly reviewed and removed this video for violating our policy against misleading manipulated media, and notified our peers at other platforms,” he added.

The deepfake video appeared on the website for Segodnya, a Russian-language Ukrainian tabloid newspaper, with the text claiming that Mr Zelensky had ordered his troops to stand down.

Segodnya responded in a statement on Instagram that “enemy hackers” were responsible for the hacking.

The altered video was aired in a hacked news broadcast on the television channel Ukraine 24, the statement noted.

“Friends, we have repeatedly warned about this. Nobody is going to give up. Especially in conditions when the Russian army is defeated in battles with the Ukrainian army!” Segodnya wrote.

The real Mr Zelensky quickly responded in a separate video, instead calling the Russian forces to surrender.

Ukrainians also reportedly ridiculed the deepfake for the poor quality of its video and audio.

“If I can offer someone to lay down their arms, it’s the Russian military. Go home. Because we’re home. We are defending our land, our children, and our families,” the Ukrainian president said in the video.

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“We are not going to lay down any weapons until our victory,” Mr Zelensky said in a post shared on his Telegram account, calling the deepfake a “childish provocation”.

Despite its poor quality, experts say the altered video could be the first high-level deepfake used in the Ukraine conflict, which began with Russia’s invasion of the country on 24 February.

Ukrainian officials said since the beginning of the war, at least 1,300 of its troops have been killed.

As of Monday, the United Nations has confirmed 636 civilian deaths in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion, of which 46 were children and 590 were adults.

However, the true figures are expected to be far higher with no sign of the war coming to an end.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered.

To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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