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Purported Deepfake of Ukrainian President Zelensky Aired on Television Station Website

In early March, the Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security posted a warning on Facebook to soldiers and civilians not to believe any video they see showing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky purportedly announcing a surrender to invading Russian forces. The notice was intended to inoculate the publication against possible ‘deepfake’ media manipulations that might be deployed by Russian agents as part of a war propaganda campaign.

Today, alleged hackers distributed a crude manipulated video of Zelensky appearing to call on Ukrainians to lay down their arms. The video depicts Zelensky at a lectern, and the audio is noticeably inconsistent with other recordings of Zelensky’s voice.

The television channel, Ukraine 24, announced the hack on Telegram, and noted a false chyron had also aired on the station’s on-air broadcast.

Belarusian journalist and Atlantic Council non-resident fellow Hanna Liubakova noted that Zelensky had issued a short video dismissing the false claims in the manipulated video. This video was released on Zelensky’s Telegram channel.

Later in the day, Meta Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher announced that Meta had removed the video as it propagated, presumably across Facebook and Instagram. He noted that Meta executives had “notified our peers at other platforms.”

“Ukrainians have done excellent work pre-bunking potential Zelensky deepfakes though looming gaps globally on deepfake detection,” said Sam Gregory, Program Director at WITNESS and an expert on ethical issues and human rights issues related to synthetic media.

This piece will be updated.