Facebook, YouTube and Twitter remove Zelensky’s deepfake

The deepfake spread widely online on Wednesday, as Vice’s noticed earlier Motherboard. In the video, which CNN Business reviewed, Zelensky appears to be standing behind a presidential podium and in front of a backdrop, both of which feature the Ukrainian coat of arms. Wearing a green shirt, Zelensky speaks in Ukrainian, appearing to tell Ukrainians to lay down their arms in the weeks-long war against Russia.
Deepfakes – which combine the terms “deep learning” and “fake” – are convincing-looking but fake video and audio files. Made using state-of-the-art and relatively accessible AI technology, they aim to show a real person doing or saying something that they haven’t done. Experts have long feared that as they improve they will be used to spread misinformation.
In a series of Twitter posts on Wednesday afternoon, Meta Security Policy Officer Nathaniel Gleicher wrote that the company spotted and deleted the video earlier today. “We promptly reviewed and removed this video for violating our policy against misleading manipulated media, and notified our peers on other platforms,” ​​he wrote.

YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi said the video and its uploads were removed from the platform for violating the company’s misinformation policies. “We allow this video if it provides sufficient educational, documentary, scientific or artistic context,” Choi said in a statement.

A Twitter spokesperson said the company monitors how the video is shared on the social network and takes “enforcement action” in cases where it violates the company’s rules (such as its politics of synthetic and manipulated media, which prohibits users from sharing edited content that may confuse or cause harm; in some cases, Twitter may label tweets with misleading media to give users more context).
Although the video doesn’t appear to be extremely doctored, there are telltale signs that the video is not what it appears to be. And Zelensky himself appeared in a video job to an official Ukrainian Defense Twitter account, saying he continued to defend Ukraine and refused to lay down arms against Russia.

Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley and an expert in digital forensics, pointed to several of the obvious signs that the video is a deepfake. First, it is a low quality, low resolution recording; this is a common trick to hide the distortions created when creating a deepfake, as our brains tend to be more forgiving of glitches in low quality videos. Second, the Zelensky in the video stares straight ahead without moving his arms throughout the clip – it’s very difficult to do a convincing deepfake that includes head movements and hands moving in front of the face. Third, there are few visual inconsistencies in the video, he pointed out, that occur during the process of making a deepfake, which is created one frame at a time. Although Zelensky’s voice is harder for Farid to comment on, in part because he doesn’t speak Ukrainian, he said it sounded a little weird to him.

The video comes weeks after the official Ukrainian Ground Forces Facebook account posted a warning that such videos of Zelensky may appear. “Warning – it’s a fake!” the account wrote, soon adding: “Rest assured – Ukraine will not capitulate!” This warning was accompanied by an image that appeared to show Zelensky in a shirt similar to the one that appeared in the deepfake video, in front of the same background and behind the same podium.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the video could still be found online, such as in some posts CNN Business spotted on Twitter and YouTube in which users made it clear it was a deepfake.

While Farid doesn’t think the video fooled people, he thinks it “muddles the information”, making it harder for anyone to trust what they see.

“Casting doubt on what you see, hear and read is a very powerful weapon in information warfare and deepfakes are now playing a part in that,” Farid said.

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