Fact check: Fake footage disguised as CNN cover goes viral amid war in Ukraine

A series of fake screenshots — screenshots that purport to represent CNN news reporting but are actually fabrications that aren’t from CNN at all — have spread widely across social media platforms over the course of the last week.

One such fake, a screenshot of a non-existent “CNN” report on actor Steven Seagal spotted in Ukraine, was shared and then deleted by prominent podcaster Joe Rogan on Monday.

A second fake was posted by a hoax Twitter account that falsely claimed to be affiliated with CNN. This forgery, of a non-existent “CNN” report on an American killed in Ukraine, was amplified on Monday by a Russian representative to the United Nations.

A third fake was a digitally altered screenshot that inserted bogus text about India and the war in Ukraine into an unrelated CNN television segment from 2019.

Here is an overview of the three.

A fake article about Steven Seagal

A fake picture purports to be a screenshot of a CNN social media post about Steven Seagal seen with the Russian military in Ukraine.
The fake image features a photo of Seagal – the Michigan-born action star who gained Russian citizenship in 2016 and is known as an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin – wearing a military uniform and carrying a gun.

The text of the fake ‘CNN’ message reads: “Intelligence agencies around the world have spotted American actor Steven Seagal among Russian special forces positioned around the outskirts of Gostomel airfield near Kiev captured by Russian airborne troops.”

Facts first: Seagal’s image is fabricated. CNN has never reported anything like this. Seagal’s plan armed and in uniform is of a film called “Cartels“, which was published in 2017, and not about the war in Ukraine.
There is no indication that Seagal, who is 69, was involved in the war. He told Fox on Monday he sees Ukraine and Russia as “one family,” blames outside “propaganda” for inciting hostility between the countries, and wants “a positive and peaceful resolution where we can live.” and prosper together in peace”.
Rogan, who has come under fire for amplifying misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic, deleted his Monday posts from Seagal’s fake screenshot. He then wrote on Facebook and Instagram: “I deleted my previous post about Steven Seagal being in Ukraine because it was a parody, which is not surprising, but honestly it wouldn’t be surprising either if it was true.” (He pointed to a 2017 Washington Post article that reported that Seagal had been banned from Ukraine for five years as an alleged security threat.)

Seagal’s fake image has already been debunked by multiple outlets, including PolitiFact and Mediaite.

Fake tweets about the death of an American

In a tweet on Monday, a Russian official at the UN, First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy, bashing the mainstream media for alleged “lies and counterfeits”. The alleged evidence that Polyanskiy pointed to, however, was itself false – two fake tweets from accounts impersonating CNN.

The first tweet, an August post from an account calling itself “CNN Afghanistan”, said a journalist named Bernie Gores had been executed by the Taliban in Kabul. The second tweet, a Feb. 23 post from an account calling itself “CNN Ukraine,” said an activist by the name of Bernie Gores was the “first American victim of the Ukraine crisis,” having been killed by a “ mine laid by Russian-backed separatists”. ”

Both tweets used the same photo of “Bernie Gores”. Many social media users were duped by the fake accounts, and they criticized or mocked CNN for supposedly reporting that the same man had died in two different wars.

Facts first: The two tweets about the death of a “Bernie Gores” are fabrications unrelated to CNN. The “CNN Ukraine” and “CNN Afghanistan” accounts behind the tweets are both fakes that have been suspended by Twitter for violating its anti-spoofing policy. The “Bernie Gores” photo used in both tweets is actually a photo of a gaming personality who is not called Bernie Gores. Online trolls have repeatedly circulated the photo of the man during global crises.
Reuters debunked the fake “CNN Afghanistan” tweet about “Bernie Gores” in August. But the tweet took on new life in February when the fake “CNN Ukraine” tweet was posted.
FactCheck.org, which debunked the latest “Bernie Gores” nonsense on Sunday, reported that the “CNN Ukraine” account was created in February and has only 129 subscribers. But that didn’t stop his “Bernie Gores” tweet from being captured and then shared by many other people.

A fake screenshot about Russia and India

Another one fake picture which has been circulating on social media for the past two weeks claims to be a screenshot from a CNN TV show.

The image shows Putin on the left and CNN journalist Frederik Pleitgen reporting from Moscow on the right. A text title near the bottom of the image reads: ‘PUTIN’S NEW PUNCHLINE’. But the doctored text just below says: “India should not intervene, otherwise be prepared to face the consequences.

Facts first: This image has been digitally altered; the phrase “India” at the bottom of the screen is fake and has never appeared on CNN. The phrase fabricated on India was inserted into a actual screenshot from a CNN television segment from November 2019. The actual text that CNN ran there read: “THE BEST OFFICIAL RUSSIAN PLEASURES ON US ELECTION INTERFERENCE IN 2020.”

Besides the poor formatting and grammar of the fabricated phrase “India”, a telltale sign that the image isn’t from 2022 is that there’s a box under Pleitgen’s face promoting CNN’s special coverage of the impeachment hearings. Pleitgen was reporting as the House of Representatives prepared to impeach then-President Donald Trump for the first time. There are no major impeachment hearings in 2022.

This false image has already been debunked by Indian fact-checking website Alt News and Reuters.

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