Russian Propagandists Exploit Celebrity Videos on Cameo for Misinformation Campaigns

Russian Propagandists Exploit Celebrity Videos on Cameo for Misinformation Campaigns

Cybersecurity Researchers Uncover Deceptive Editing of Celebrity Videos to Push Anti-Ukraine Propaganda

Russian propagandists have found a new avenue to spread misinformation, using celebrity videos from the popular platform Cameo to support their campaigns. According to cybersecurity researchers at Microsoft, pro-Russia social media channels have been circulating deceptively edited videos of American celebrities, which were used to push anti-Ukraine propaganda. The celebrities, including actor Elijah Wood and boxer Mike Tyson, were apparently unaware that their videos were being manipulated to attack Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. This report sheds light on the extent of Russia’s influence in online information spaces and highlights the need for vigilance against such tactics.

Exploiting Cameo for Misinformation

The report published by Microsoft’s Threat Analysis Center reveals that an unknown Russia-aligned influence actor leveraged Cameo, a platform where people can pay public figures for personalized video messages, to obtain videos of celebrities. These videos were then deceptively edited to include emojis and links, making it seem as if the celebrities were pleading with “Vladimir” to seek help for substance abuse. Pro-Russian social media accounts widely shared these manipulated videos, which were later amplified by state-backed Russian media outlets. The videos were inaccurately portrayed as messages directly appealing to President Zelensky.

Manipulated Celebrity Video Messages

Since late July 2023, Microsoft researchers have observed at least seven instances of manipulated celebrity video messages being used for propaganda purposes. In addition to Elijah Wood and Mike Tyson, other US celebrities such as Priscilla Presley, Dean Norris, Kate Flannery, and John McGinley were featured in these videos. The celebrities named in the report have not yet responded to requests for comment. The videos were edited to resemble interviews with news outlets or the celebrities’ own social media accounts, presenting them as part of a broader plea to Zelensky to address a supposed substance abuse issue.

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Novel Approach to Promoting False Claims

The Microsoft researchers note that Kremlin officials and Russian state-sponsored propaganda have long promoted the false claim that President Zelensky struggles with substance abuse. However, this campaign marks a novel approach by pro-Russia actors seeking to further the narrative in the online information space. By exploiting Cameo’s platform and manipulating celebrity videos, they aim to give credibility to their false claims and influence public opinion.

Response from Cameo

A spokesperson for Cameo stated that the company does not publicly comment on the details of its Trust & Safety investigations. However, the spokesperson emphasized that the manipulated videos in question would violate Cameo’s Community Guidelines. In cases where such violations are substantiated, Cameo takes steps to remove the problematic content and suspend the purchaser’s account to prevent further issues.

Conclusion:

The exploitation of celebrity videos on Cameo by Russian propagandists highlights the evolving tactics used to spread misinformation. By deceptively editing these videos, pro-Russia actors aim to manipulate public opinion and further their anti-Ukraine propaganda. This incident serves as a reminder of the importance of vigilance in the online information space and the need for platforms like Cameo to strengthen their measures against such misuse. As the battle against misinformation continues, it is crucial for individuals and organizations to critically evaluate the content they encounter and rely on trusted sources for accurate information.