When video games interfere with fake news

Soldiers clash in burning cities, warplanes are hit by missiles, drones dust tanks: these images seem larger than life, but in fact they are taken from war video games like Arma 3, which feed the flood of disinformation.

Clips taken from this game where headbands are often added”Alive“where”latest newsto appear more authentic, it was often used in fake videos depicting Russian aggression against Ukraine.

The fact that they easily fool the public, sometimes even television channels, worries researchers. This “a reminder of how easily people can be deceivedClaire Wardle, co-director of Brown University’s Information Futures Lab, told AFP.

With enhanced video game visuals, CGI can seem realistic at first glance“, he explains.”People need to know how to check the authenticity of these images, especially how to check the metadata, so that these mistakes are avoided, especially by the media.

Arma 3 from the Czech studio Bohemia Interactive allows you to create different combat scenarios using planes, tanks and various weapons. Many players then share videos of their adventures online, sometimes directed elsewhere.

Under the pictures of Arma 3 titled “Counter attack of Ukraine!“, for example, one stray netizen commented: “We should ask Ukraine to train NATO forces after this war.”

“The First TikTok War”

While we’re flattered that Arma 3 is such a realistic simulation of modern conflicts, we’re annoyed that it’s being mistaken for actual combat footage and used as war propaganda.“, – the representative of the studio reacted in the press release.

We try to fight back by reporting this content to platforms, but it’s not effective at all. For every unpublished video, ten more videos are uploaded every day.

In recent years, Arma 3 footage has also been used to falsely portray the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Palestine, with fake news regularly denounced by the digital verification media.

AFP followed up on several, including one in November that it claimed showed Russian tanks being hit by Javelin missiles and was viewed tens of thousands of times.

According to Bohemia Interactive, these hijacks experienced a resurgence in popularity with the invasion of Ukraine, sometimes “the first tiktok war“Because of the many pictures on social media showing it.

“Trolls” and “naives”

The media has also been duped: Romania’s Romania TV channel released old Arma 3 footage of the fighting in Ukraine in November, and a former defense minister and a former intelligence chief interpreted the images as if they were authentic.

Already in February, another Romanian channel, Antena 3, mistakenly broadcast an old Arma 3 video and invited the spokesman of the Ministry of Defense to analyze it. This will be limited to general notes on the conflict.

There are various reasons for sharing these fake clips on social networks.

I suspect that the people posting this content are just “trolls” who want to see how many people they can fool“, AFP Nick Waters told digital research site Bellingcat.

Those who then reshare these publications, according to him, “naive people“attempt to gain visibility or subscribers on the Internet.

Given the unsophisticated nature of the disinformation based on Arma 3 extracts, it is unlikely to come from state actors, the researchers say.

It’s easier for them to check out these clips”profound frauds“(where”profound frauds“), which is increasingly used in the criminal world, is about using artificial intelligence to create confusingly realistic images.

If you know what to expect, it’s not that hard to tell that these videos (of Arma 3) are fake“, adds Nick Waters. Unfortunately, regrets, “many people don’t have the skillsto detect disinformation.

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