Russia is repurposing purchased Cameo videos from US celebrities to make them seem to be disparaging Ukraine's leader

The Microsoft Threat Analysis Center has released a report stating that Russia has been covertly purchasing Cameo video messages from US celebrities, purportedly for fans, and then manipulating them to make it seem to be messages directed at Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelensky. Celebrities whose video messages have been used include Elijah Wood, Mike Tyson, John McGinley ("Scrubs"), and Kate Flannery ("The Office"). Link to the article in The New York Times here.

The Kremlin has unleashed a new weapon in its information war with the West: the fake celebrity cameo.

"Hi, Vladimir, Elijah here," the actor Elijah Wood said in a video packaged to seem as if Mr. Wood were addressing Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The actor, best known for playing Frodo Baggins in "Lord of the Rings," urged the president to enter treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. "I hope you can get the help you need," Mr. Wood signed off. 

The video was recorded on Cameo, the popular, though now struggling, app where users can pay for personalized messages from famous people — in Mr. Wood's case, starting at $340. While a genuine video, it was repurposed as part of Russia's efforts to falsely denigrate Mr. Zelensky as a drug-addled neo-Nazi. Beginning in July, according to a report released on Thursday by Microsoft's Threat Analysis Center, the video and others like it ricocheted through Russian social media and were ultimately featured by news organizations owned or controlled by the government.

A representative for Elijah Wood confirmed that he had recorded the message on Cameo in response to a request, but it was "in no way intended to be addressed to Zelensky or have anything at all to do with Russia or Ukraine or the war."

The Cameo videos were manipulated by Russian agents after they were recorded to include emojis, logos of media outlets, and social media addresses. Elijah Wood's video was overlaid his Instagram address, to make it seem it was intended for public broadcast.


A digitally altered viral video of actor Elijah Wood, made to appear as if he's asking Ukrainian President Zelensky to go to rehab for drug addiction, is misleading. Here's why #elijahwood #zelensky @Jessica Sherwood #ukraine🇺🇦 #cameo #misinformation #fakenews

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