Deepfakes are being used to push anti-Ukraine disinformation

Deepfakes are being used to push anti-Ukraine disinformation
Ryan is a senior editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter: @Gadget_Ry

Influence operations with ties to Russia and Belarus have been found using deepfakes to push anti-Ukraine disinformation.

Last week, AI News reported on the release of a study that found humans can generally no longer distinguish between real and AI-generated “deepfake” faces.

As humans, we’re somewhat trained to believe what we see with our eyes. Many believed that it was only a matter of time before Russia took advantage of deepfakes and our human psychology to take its vast disinformation campaigns to the next level.

Facebook and Twitter removed two anti-Ukraine “covert influence operations” over the weekend. One had ties to Russia, while the other was connected to Belarus.

As we’ve often seen around things like Covid-19 disinformation, the Russian propaganda operation included websites aimed at pushing readers towards anti-Ukraine views. The campaign had links with the News Front and South Front websites which the US government has linked to Russian intelligence disinformation efforts.

However, Facebook said this particular campaign used AI-generated faces to give the idea that it was posted by credible columnists. Here’s one “columnist” and the “editor-in-chief” of one propaganda website:

Ears are often still a giveaway with AI-generated faces like those created on ‘This Person Does Not Exist’. The fictional woman’s mismatched earrings are one indicator while the man’s right ear is clearly not quite right.

Part of the campaign was to promote the idea that Russia’s military operation is going well and Ukraine’s efforts are going poorly. We know that Russia’s state broadcasters have only acknowledged ludicrously small losses—including just one Russian soldier fatality.

On Saturday, state-owned news agency RIA-Novosti even accidentally published and then deleted an article headlined “The arrival of Russia in a new world” in what appeared to be a pre-prepared piece expecting a swift victory. The piece piled praise on Putin’s regime and claims that Russia is returning to lead a new world order to rectify the “terrible catastrophe” that was the collapse of the Soviet Union.

So far, Russia is expected to have lost around 5,300 troops, 816 armoured combat vehicles, 101 tanks, 74 guns, 29 warplanes, 29 helicopters, and two ships/motorboats, as part of its decision to invade Ukraine.

The slow progress and mounting losses appear to have angered Russia with its military now conducting what appears to be very clear war crimes—targeting civilian areas, bombing hospitals and kindergartens, and using thermobaric and cluster munitions indiscriminately. Putin has even hinted at using nuclear weapons offensively rather than defensively in an unprecedented escalation.

Many ordinary Russian citizens are becoming outraged at what their government is doing to Ukraine, where many have family, friends, and share deep cultural ties. Russia appears to be ramping up its propaganda to counter as the country finds itself increasingly isolated.

Western governments and web giants have clamped down on Russia’s state propagandists in recent days.

British telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched 15 investigations into state broadcaster RT after observing “a significant increase in the number of programmes on the RT service that warrant investigation under our Broadcasting Code.”

Facebook has decided to block access to RT and Sputnik across the EU following “a number” of government requests from within the EU. Twitter, for its part, has announced that it would label tweets from Russian state media accounts.

Hacker collective Anonymous claims to have carried out over 1,500 cyberattacks against Russian government sites, transport infrastructure, banks, and state media to counter their falsehoods and broadcast the truth about the invasion to Russian citizens.

Russia’s media regulator Roskomnadzor, for its part, has restricted Russian users’ access to Facebook and Twitter.

(Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash)

Related: Ukraine is using Starlink to maintain global connectivity

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