The Truth is Powerful

‘Deepfake’ that supposedly fooled European politicians was just a look-alike, say pranksters

Deepfakes use AI techniques to generate or manipulate videos and pictures. Artist: William Joel Last week, numerous news outlets reported that a string of European politicians had been tricked by a sophisticated Russian plot. Parliamentarians from the UK, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia had all arranged video calls with a hoaxer claiming to be Leonid Volkov, chief of staff to imprisoned Russian anti-Putin politician Alexei Navalny. As the politicians tell it, they fell victim to a digital fake: a doppelgänger created it using “deepfake” technology to trick politicians — the latest example of Russia’s misinformation campaigns in the West.

But the Russian men who orchestrated the calls say the “deepfake” claim is itself misinformation. Speaking to The Verge , the hoaxers say their imitation Volkov was created using effects no more sophisticated than makeup and artfully obscure camera angles. The case of the fake deepfake “Meet Leonid Volkov, Russian opposition leader,” says Vladimir Kuznetsov in a recent video call with The Verge , introducing his colleague and partner-in-crime Alexei Stolyarov, a man who does indeed bear a passing resemblance to Leonid Volkov.

The pair say they tricked their way into various meetings with European politicians and even a live interview on Latvian […]

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