As Russian forces invade Ukraine, misinformation and fake news are spreading fast online. One particularly egregious example involves footage from the 2013 tactical shooter game ARMA 3.
All over social media, you’ll find recent videos purporting to show Russian military operations in Ukraine. Some are genuine, but many are either unverified or downright fake. Over in the fake zone, several Twitter users have shared viral clips of aerial combat scenes from ARMA 3, labeled as if they’re real updates from Ukraine:
Multiple accounts have reposted the same ARMA 3 clip today, garnering thousands of retweets. The video has even made its way onto an Indian news channel. It’s an unfortunate example of how quickly false information can spread online—and it’s not the first time this has happened with ARMA 3. In fact, ARMA 3-related hoaxes are now a grim sort of meme.
In 2018, Russian state TV aired an ARMA 3 clip as if it was real footage of an airstrike in Syria. And last year, an Indian news show used ARMA 3 footage as “proof” that Pakistani forces were bombing Afghanistan. Meanwhile, on social media, ARMA 3 is a perennial favorite among people creating hoax content about military actions, including fake Israeli defense systems and missile launches in Iran.
ARMA 3 features realistic graphics and terrain, and while high-definition gameplay footage is visibly recognizable as a videogame, the same can’t be said of lower-quality clips. People are being fooled by these viral “Ukraine” clips because they combine plausibility with cinematic action. In other words, they look more exciting than the real thing. They’re temptingly shareable, and therefore very effective as misinformation.