Netherlands

Much unclear about ‘deepfake conversation’ of MPs with employee Navalny

Much is still unclear about the conversation that Dutch MPs had on Wednesday with someone who apparently pretended to be Leonid Volkov, a high-ranking employee of the Russian opposition leader Navalny. Navalny is in a Russian penal camp and was on a hunger strike until yesterday in protest against his treatment and lack of medical attention.

Volkov himself says that two Russian ‘pranksters’ pretend to be him using deepfake technology. This technology makes it possible to replace a face in a video (connection) with another face. That way you can get someone to say anything. But it is difficult to say whether this technology has actually been used here. The House of Representatives itself does not confirm this.

‘Bizarre event’

One of the participants in Wednesday’s conversation was D66 Member of Parliament Sjoerd Sjoerdsma. He says that he soon realized that something was wrong and, according to him, many other MPs did not take the conversation seriously. He speaks of a bizarre event.

If it was an attempt to discredit Navalny, it would have failed, according to Sjoerdsma. He believes that these types of digital encounters should be better verified in advance.

VVD MP Ruben Brekelmans says about the conversation that he doubted whether this was a high-ranking person. He did not think the answers of the Russian interlocutor were very strong. According to Brekelmans, the image could not show that it was possibly fake.

He does not want to say anything about the content: “This was a confidential conversation and we want to keep it even more.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not want to respond to the incident.

Well-known Russian duo

According to Navalny’s employee Volkov, the fake conversation is the work of Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexey Stolyarov, better known as ‘Vovan’ and ‘Lexus’. This duo is known in Russia for making fun of Kremlin opponents and world leaders.

“In 2014, this duo became popular in Russia when they played a trick with representatives of the Ukrainian political elite, including then President Poroshenko. But also former Soviet leader Gorbachev, Turkish President Erdogan, singer Elton John, and others. British Prince Harry was fooled by the duo, “said Russia correspondent Iris de Graaf.

‘Sowing suspicion’

But Volkov doesn’t see these Vovan and Lexus as funny jokers at all. Volkov calls the duo “employees of the presidential administration who run propaganda campaigns to sow suspicion”. Navalny’s anti-corruption organization desperately needs contacts in Europe, but according to Volkov, European politicians are now less likely to respond to invitations from Volkov and Navalny’s organization.

The independent Russian newspaper The Moscow Times previously wrote that “the level of access to high-profile figures – as well as the lack of intervention by Russian security forces – suggests that the two are operating under ‘an arrangement’ with the Kremlin”. The duo themselves deny this.

‘More than ten attempts intercepted’

Vovan and Lexus have been targeting Leonid Volkov for longer and more often. In a Facebook post, Volkov writes that he knows about ten unsuccessful attempts, in which the duo sought contact with influential people and organizations on his behalf.

In these ten cases, the other party became suspicious and decided to verify the request. According to Volkov, “can only guess how many attempts they have made. Dozens? Hundreds?” He writes on Facebook. It is certain that politicians from several European countries have recently witnessed this.

Deepfake or not?

It is not clear whether the Dutch MPs actually spoke with a deepfake imitation, as Volkov suggests, or with a ‘normal’ lookalike. No recording of the conversation has yet appeared online and as long as it has not been there, according to Theo Gevers, professor Computer Vision at the University of Amsterdam, not to say. Gevers is an authority on deepfakes.

Much unclear about ‘deepfake conversation’ of MPs with employee Navalny
Source link Much unclear about ‘deepfake conversation’ of MPs with employee Navalny

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