The mayors of several European capitals have been duped into holding video calls with a deepfake of their counterpart in Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko.
The mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey, took part in a scheduled call on the Webex video conferencing platform on Friday with a person she said looked and sounded like Klitschko.
“There were no signs that the video conference call wasn’t being held with a real person,” her office said in a statement.
It was only after about 15 minutes, when the supposed Kyiv mayor at the other end of the line started to talk about the problem of Ukrainian refugees cheating the German state of benefits, and appeared to call for refugees to be brought back to Ukraine for military service, that Giffey grew suspicious.
When the connection was briefly interrupted, the Berlin mayor’s office contacted the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, who confirmed through authorities in Kyiv that the person on the video call was not the real Klitschko, the news magazine Der Spiegel reported.
Deepfakes use a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning to make images of fake events, or to create animations of politicians giving fake speeches.
“It is sadly the reality that the war is being waged with all sorts of means, including on the net, to undermine trust by digital means and discredit the partners and allies of Ukraine,” Giffey said.
The Madrid mayor’s office has also filed a complaint with the police over a someone impersonating Klitschko in a video call with José Luis Martínez-Almeida.
According to the his spokesperson Daniel Bardavío Colebrook, the the mayor grew suspicious soon after the start of the conversation and interrupted the call.
The mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig, announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he had talked by video call to Klitschko, who is a former heavyweight boxer . The tweet was deleted on Saturday. Shortly afterwards, the Austrian capital’s official account put out a statement that Ludwig appeared to have been the victim of a “serious case of cybercrime”.