Facebook users posting video game footage, saying it’s Ukraine


Meta has long struggled to moderate misleading or fake news, including about elections and Covid-19. Experts say it is more challenging to moderate video than text – particularly live video, as it is difficult for AI to analyse as it unfolds. — Reuters

The top videos on Facebook Gaming on Feb 24 were described as footage of live attacks on Ukraine by Russia, some complete with red “Breaking News” banners. But the videos were in fact gameplay from the military simulator Arma 3.

The videos, watched by more than 110,000 people and shared more than 25,000 times, were delisted after Bloomberg News approached Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc. for comment. They’re among a flood of misleading content on social media from users attempting to capitalise on the attention to the war.

Meta has long struggled to moderate misleading or fake news, including about elections and Covid-19. Experts say it is more challenging to moderate video than text – particularly live video, as it is difficult for AI to analyse as it unfolds.

“In response to the unfolding military conflict in Ukraine, we have established a Special Operations Center to respond in real time,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Meta’s head of security policy, said on Twitter, adding that the center will be staffed with native speakers.

Launched in 2018, Facebook Gaming is Meta’s answer to Twitch, Amazon.com Inc’s popular game livestreaming service. On Thursday, the service was overrun by over 90 Arma 3 videos with titles referencing the crisis in Ukraine – some of which were live for as long as six hours. Early that day, all five of Facebook Gaming’s most-viewed videos on the platform depicted a video game rendition of military assault in Ukraine. Some of the videos’ titles, many of which are in Arabic, read “Russia Fighter Jets on Ukraine” and “Live scenes of the Russian bombing of Ukraine”.

The top-viewed live stream was in fact a pre-recorded video of a plane shelling a shoreline in the game Arma 3. Fifty-two thousand live viewers tuned in. In the accompanying chatroom, the channel owner, who goes by Naruto, repeatedly asked viewers to subscribe to their channel. Under an Arabic Arma 3 video with a “Breaking News” label, the creator commented that the livestream was “from the borders of Ukraine”, and documented by a reporter. 8,000 viewers watched.

The top English stream that morning was “Russia Fighter Jets on Ukraine”, and included a red “Breaking News” banner. Despite the videos’ Arma 3 labels, viewers in the accompanying chat box questioned whether they are real footage of the invasion.

“Meta has enough experience now that it should be anticipating this stuff, especially in crisis scenarios like this,” said Evelyn Douek at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

Many top user-generated content sites saw similar problems. On Twitter, users circulated purported videos of the attack that were actually recycled footage from previous conflicts. On TikTok, fake livestreams surfaced from users saying they were in Ukraine, soliciting monetary donations, with sounds of gunshots dubbed over footage of residential houses in the UK, NBC reported. – Bloomberg

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