Arma 3, the milsim sandbox by Bohemia Interactive is not the kind of game. I see these days, except when it pops up in the news because someone tries to pass off in-game footage as part of a real-life conflict. This happens surprisingly often, such as when an Indian news channel used it to claim that Pakistan had bombed Afghanistan in 2021. And it happened again, this time disguised as footage of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Noticed Bloomberg (across Kotaku), Facebook users were shown videos purporting to be related to the invasion, including one that was presented as a Russian air attack. Arma 3 was released over eight years ago and boasted an impressive level of fidelity for the time, but not enough to be mistaken for real conflict under normal circumstances. However, in a low-quality social media clip, these completely fictional digital brawls can look startlingly real.
These videos were viewed on Facebook Gaming, which should have alerted them but they were presented as actual videos of the conflict and some even had “Breaking News” banners. Bloomberg reports that before Facebook removed them, they were viewed by more than 110,000 people who shared them 25,000 times. Meanwhile, On Twitter, the tweet sharing them received 11,000 likes and 2,000 retweets before being deleted by Twitter.
It’s unclear what the purpose of the uploader was, but today’s conflicts are full of misinformation and propaganda that spread like wildfire on social media, where the desire for interaction and the need to share absolutely everything is more important than fact-checking.
The problem is so serious that Facebook, which has previously adhered to disturbing laissez-faire in the fight against disinformation is actually taking reasonable action. Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher announced yesterday that a “Special Operations Center” has been set up, which includes experts and native speakers who will monitor the intrusion and what is posted on Facebook.
1/ In response to the unfolding military conflict in Ukraine, we have established a Special Operations Center to respond in real time. It employs specialists (including native speakers), so we can closely monitor the situation and act as quickly as possible.February 24, 2022
This goes far beyond removing videos and includes giving users in Ukraine the ability to block their profiles with a single click to protect themselves online. Cyberwarfare is an important part of Russia’s strategy, which ranges from large DDoS attacks to the use of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
These fake clips are not the only example of the intersection of games and invasion. Streamers in Ukraine share their bitter experiences with their viewers, such as the popular Final Fantasy 14 streamer Zepla, who is originally from Louisiana but has been living in Ukraine for eight years. And as one of the most populous countries in Europe, Ukraine has spawned a slew of game developers, including the Stalker studio GSC Game World, which tweeted a call for people to support the Ukrainian military.
It’s worth being extra savvy when searching the internet at times like this, and it’s worth making the effort to make sure you know where the news or clips you’d like to share actually come from.