Russia has officially invaded Ukraine, starting a needless war that has the potential to cause extreme human suffering and create millions of refugees. But don’t believe everything you see on the internet right now, especially if you’re checking social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok.
The photos and videos coming out of Ukraine are harrowing, with the country’s border stations destroyed by Russian troops, Ukraine’s airports under fire, and Russian missiles landing in Kyiv. But not everything being shared on social media at the moment is trustworthy.
In fact, Gizmodo has found at least nine viral photos and videos currently being spread on social media that are completely fake. In some cases, the videos and photos are years old. In others, the images are clearly not from Ukraine. There are even two examples of videos on Twitter today that are actually from war-themed video games, something Russian state media has previously tried to do on multiple occasions.
We’ve got a round-up of fake photos and videos we’ve found so far, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine still very much in its infancy. Nobody knows how long this invasion will last. But however long that may be, you can bet on one thing: There will be plenty more fake photos and videos passed around online before this conflict is over.
Missiles or Video Game?
This video, shared by several Twitter accounts after Russia invaded Ukraine, has been billed as “Ukraine launching anti aircraft missiles into the night.” In reality, it’s animated footage from the video game War Thunder.
How can someone possibly confuse a video game for reality? When you find versions online that aren’t quite so desaturated as the ones currently going viral you can see much easier that it’s not real.
Explosion From China in 2015
This video went viral with the caption, “fires started by Russian airstrike set off chain reaction at Luhansk power plant Ukrainian.” But the video is actually from 2015 and shows a fire in Tianjin, China.
Plane on Fire
Ukraine has successfully taken down seven Russian military aircraft, according to the country’s political leaders. But don’t believe all the photos you see of these downed jets just yet. This photo has been passed around social media with the caption, “Reportedly, the 6th Russian aircraft downed by Ukraine.”
The photo was most recently posted to a Russian language blog in January as a screenshot and has nothing to do with the current invasion of Ukraine, but it’s likely even older than that. In fact, it appears to be from 2017.
Another video that was supposedly shot in Ukraine today is actually from the explosion in Beirut in 2020 that killed at least 218 people. The blast occurred when ammonium nitrate that was improperly stored at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon exploded, and has nothing to do with Russia or Ukraine.
That’s an American Fighter Jet
This video, simply captioned with “this is crazy” and hashtags for Ukraine and Russia, suggests it came from today’s conflict. But the plane is actually an American military F-16 and doesn’t appear to be from today for so many reasons. The most obvious being that the U.S. has not pledged military support of Ukraine. At least not yet.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak with his NATO allies about what pressure can be further exerted on Russia later today, but Biden has previously said he’s not putting any U.S. boots on the ground in the region.
More Video Game Footage
One Twitter user even wrote, “Russia warplane nicely avoiding being dropped down by fire missiles after dropping BOMBS… This more than a war… Putin is teaching @NATO a lifetime lesson…”
Not quite, Russian bot. Not quite.
Strangely, ARMA 3 has been used by Russian state media before and passed off as real battle footage against ISIS in 2018.
Old Military Exercise
This viral video claimed to show “Russian military paratroopers” landing in Ukraine. In reality, the video is a massive Russian training exercise from 2018. Another user pulled the video, however, and made it into an attempt to place the blame of Russia’s invasion on the Biden administration.
You can blame the U.S. for a lot of bad foreign policy decisions in the past. But in this case, Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine is solely Russia’s fault. This is a war of choice, plain and simple.
Wrong Country, Folks
The person who tweeted out this fake viral video, @thenittu, has been hiding replies that point out it’s not from today, showing they definitely know what they’re doing. The deception is intentional.
Old Flag Photo
Air Show From 2020
The original video, which is available on YouTube, clearly shows it was uploaded on May 4, 2020. It’s just a flyby in Moscow from a couple of years ago, not anything to do with today’s bloody mess.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.