Ukraine War Misinformation: Old Photos and Fictional Journalists

Truth Finder

Status: 01/03/2022 1:09 PM

Several attacks on Ukraine have been documented by mobile phone videos and are verifiable. But there are also old photos, manipulated Putin’s speech, and even fake journalists.

Written by Patrick Jensing, ARD Facts Search Editors

The war against Ukraine dominates international news. Many reports of the Russian attacks are based on footage taken by local residents with their mobile phones and shared on social media.

Many of these recordings can be validated, while others turn out to be spurious. Many images appear manipulated or outdated. some examples:

  • A manipulated photo of President Volodymyr Zelensky has been circulated to discredit him as an alleged Nazi. It was based on an older photo of the president showing the shirt of the national football team of Ukraine. Unidentified persons installed a swastika on it and then spread this figure. The lie that the “Nazi regime” rules Kyiv is one of the Kremlin’s main justifications for attacking Ukraine.

This Zelenskij photo has been manipulated, and unknown people have attached a swastika to the shirt.

  • Reports of downed Russian planes have been marked with photos that are many years old, TinEye’s reverse search shows. In this context, Reuters also found photos of an accident at an air show in 1993.

A reverse search with TinEye shows that the alleged picture of the war in Ukraine is several years old.

Photo: TinEye

  • The girl is supposed to tell a Russian soldier to go home. But this image is not from the current war, but rather from a YouTube video posted years ago that is said to show a Palestinian girl and an Israeli soldier. FullFact searched for more details on this topic.

A girl was said to want to send a Russian soldier home – but it’s a screenshot of a video from the Middle East.

Photo: UPND-UK Class Facebook page

  • The photo of two children saluting Ukrainian soldiers is also not up to date, but it dates back to 2016. Recently the photo was widely shared and was interpreted by many users as evidence of population identification in Ukraine.

An American politician shared a picture of saluting children.

Photo: Twitter

Reverse search shows: The image is several years old.

Photo: TinEye

Putin’s “deep fake”

A video has also appeared of Putin announcing his withdrawal from Ukraine. But this is not authentic, it is clearly a “deep fake”.

With this technology, videos can be manipulated so that it appears as if Putin is really speaking himself. As much image material as possible for videos created with “artificial intelligence” is required to look authentic – in Putin’s case, there are many long speeches where he sits, talks and wears very similar clothes. The ideal conditions for “deep fake”.

Content analysis helps identify such fakes: this is how Putin speaks in the video – this Deliberately not tied – about negotiations with Ukraine, which were quite successful for the Russian side. Peace has been achieved, Russia has agreed a fund for the reconstruction of infrastructure with the European Union and the USA, and Crimea should belong to Ukraine.

None of this agrees with the statements and information about the negotiations. There are also no reliable sources distributing this video. It is fake, but you can hardly see it with the naked eye.

There are no journalists

Perpetrators of disinformation have gone so far as to spread Putin’s propaganda disguised as Ukrainians. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said many of the banned profiles run websites that pretend to be independent news services. They also created fake identities on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram, Russian Odnoklassniki and VK. Various investigations led to the Troll plant in St. Petersburg.

Alleged bloggers from Kyiv used profile pictures that were allegedly created with a tool like “This person doesn’t exist”. Such sites generate images of people who do not even exist. On closer examination, the corresponding images often do not appear normal because parts of the face or head shape do not match.

Meta said analysts have noticed in the past few days an increase in attacks on individuals in Ukraine, including Ukrainian military and public figures.

Russia’s strategy of spreading “pseudo-science” propaganda is not new. Research has shown, for example, that the Russian radio station Sputnik invented an author in Moldova. Facebook has also banned a network of non-existent journalists.

Additionally, research has shown how fake Russian profiles have been able to influence public discussions. For example, in more than 100 cases, tweets from Russian trolls have been captured by the British media and presented as supposedly genuine online reactions.

“Information war”

The Russian state media is said to act as “weapons in the information war”. The success of misinformation, regardless of copyright, depends on the extent to which users share such misleading content.

Therefore, taking your time is crucial. It’s not always possible to tell if content is trustworthy – but at least there are some simple steps you can take to identify suspicious or intentionally misleading reports – and thus avoid falling for misinformation.

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