2020 Vladimir Putin deepfake video recirculates online

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A video spreading on social media appears to show Russian President Vladimir Putin remarking on the state of American democracy. But the clip is fabricated; an advocacy group created it using artificial intelligence.

"America, you blame me for interfering with your democracy, but I don't have to. You are doing it yourself," Putin appears to say in the footage, shared April 16, 2023 on Instagram.

"Polling stations are closing. You don't know who to trust. You are divided. There are strings we can pull but we don't have to, you are pulling them for us."

Screenshot of an Instagram post taken April 19, 2023

Other examples of the video circulated on TikTok and Facebook.

Putin has been accused of authorizing campaigns aimed at sowing distrust in the American political process and interfering in the 2020 presidential election. However, the clip shared online is a deepfake -- an advocacy group created it using artificial intelligence.

A reverse image search surfaced a September 2020 Business Insider article titled: "A creepy presidential debate ad shows a deepfake of Putin telling Americans they’re ruining their own democracy."

Embedded in the article is the video shared online.

"This footage is not real, but the threat is. Join Us," says a disclaimer at the end of the clip.

RepresentUs a US nonprofit organization, said in a September 2020 press release (archived here) that it created the advertisement to "illustrate that unless the American people take immediate action to fix political corruption, voter suppression gerrymandering, and our broken election systems democracy will collapse."

"Deepfakes are an entirely new kind of threat to democracy and the integrity of the media. This ad exposes the threat for all to see," RepresentUs co-founder Josh Silver said in the release.

The ad was scheduled to debut following the September 29, 2020 presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. However, television stations pulled the ad before it aired.

The group sought to draw attention to widespread misinformation around the 2020 US election, about which AFP has debunked numerous claims.

The growing use of AI-generated visuals has sparked worldwide concerns about election integrity, including the potential role deepfakes could play in spreading misinformation among voters. Here are a few tips to identify such fabrications.

AFP has debunked other AI-generated images and videos here, here and here.