A photorealistic animated short video clip of the Russian President, Vladamir Putin, splitting wood and handing over the chopped wood to the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, is being widely shared on multiple social media platforms, including YouTube, Twitter and messaging app – WhatsApp.

The YouTube shorts video has garnered more than 1.7 million interactions and is one of many created by the YouTube channel @simple_putin for satirical purposes.

A screengrab of the viral video

On social media, not everything you see is real, and this is one such example.

The Youtube channel was created on May 25, 2021, and already has 4 million subscribers after posting over a thousand video content viewed 1.9 billion times.

However, the page has an open disclaimer: “Our channel was created for entertainment purposes only! In no way do we want to offend anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings. All roles are played by actors, coincidences, including external ones, with real people are random.”

A screenshot of the disclaimer published by the YouTube channel

Such video content brings to the fore conversations about the potential of synthetic media productions to make it difficult for the public to differentiate between what is real from fiction and how bad actors can manipulate such technologies during elections, induce societal unrest, and incite panic.

Also, the need to train the public to be more critical about such online content, acquire basic digital skills to verify some of these videos and understand how bad online actors weaponize mis/disinformation have been even more crucial.

When suspicious of any video online:

  • Check for a disclaimer from the publisher (it might just be for satire)
  • Use the InVID toolkit to check for authenticity
  • Check on the verified social media handle of the subject and verify with credible media/fact-checking platforms
  • Pay attention to natural human features (Wrinkles, eyeshadow, forehead, eyebrow etc.)

With the rapid advancements in AI technologies, this will mean more videos of high-grade quality and closeness to the original content are expected.

Deep and shallow fakes have become the new normal on social media – a class of AI-generated audio-visual materials designed to appear authentic.

The influx of synthetic media productions may lead to the death of trust in media outright, as people will assume all content may be artificially generated “fake news.”

By: Sedem Kwasigah