A slightly too realistic war video game at the start of the misinformation wave – rts.ch

Soldiers clashing, fighter planes being shot down by missiles, drones destroying tanks: these images appear larger than life, but are actually taken from war video games like “Arma III”. They feed the flow of misinformation, especially around the war in Ukraine.

One might think that this is a real clash, but the picture is deceiving. Cinematic scenes from the game “Arma III”, to which the banner “Live” or “Latest news” is often added, have been frequently used in fake videos allegedly representing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The ease with which they deceive the public, and sometimes even television channels, worries researchers. It’s a “reminder of how easily people are fooled,” said Claire Wardle, co-director of Brown University’s Information Future Lab.

“With enhanced video game visuals, CGI can, at first glance, seem real,” he explains. “The public needs to know how to verify the veracity of the image, especially how to review the metadata, so that this error can be avoided, especially by the media.”

Ultra-realistic game

Arma III, from the Czech studio Bohemia Interactive, lets you generate different battle scenarios using planes, tanks and various weapons. Many players then share videos of their adventures online, which sometimes redirect.

Weapon 3. [Bohemia Interactive – DR]

Example: Under an image of Arma III titled “Ukraine counterattack!”, a netizen commented: “We should ask Ukraine, after this war, to train ‘NATO’ troops.

“While it is flattering that Arma III simulates modern conflict so realistically, we are unhappy that it could be misinterpreted as depiction of real combat and used as war propaganda,” reacted studio representatives in a press release.

“We tried to combat this content by reporting it to the platform, but it was completely ineffective. For every unpublished video, ten more are uploaded every day,” he complained.

Deja vu atmosphere

In recent years, Arma III images have also been used to misrepresent the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and Palestine, “fakes” often denounced by digital verification media.

According to Bohemia Interactive, this piracy experienced a resurgence in popularity with the invasion of Ukraine, sometimes being dubbed the “first TikTok war” due to the large number of images illustrating it on the social network.

The media has also been duped: the Romanian channel Romania TV showed an old video of Arma III in November showing fighting in Ukraine, and the former defense minister and former intelligence chief both commented on the image as if it were real.

Already in February, another Romanian channel, Antena 3, mistakenly broadcast an old Arma III video and invited a Ministry of Defense spokesperson to analyze it. The latter are content with general comments about the conflict.

Various motivations

“I suspect the people posting this content are just trolls wanting to see how many people they can trick,” said Nick Waters of digital forensics website Bellingcat. Those who later shared the publication, he argued, were “naïve people” trying to gain visibility or subscribers on the internet.

Given the unsophisticated nature of the disinformation based on quotes from Arma III, it is less likely to originate from state actors, the researchers said.

>> Read also: “Deep fakes”, fake videos with high potential for harm

For them, these clips are easier to verify than “deepfakes” (or “hyperfakes”), which consist of using artificial intelligence to create disorientingly realistic images, which are increasingly being used in the criminal underworld.

“If you know what to expect, this video (of Arma III) is actually not that hard to identify as fake,” added Nick Waters. Unfortunately, he laments, “a lot of people don’t have the skills” to spot misinformation.

>> Video published by Bohemia Interactive explaining how to identify fake images:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *