Today, the Russian Ministry of Defense’s official Twitter account posted an image it claimed showed “irrefutable” evidence of US collusion with the Islamic State. The only problem? The image is actually a screenshot from a mobile game.
That’s right, Russia’s MoD actually tried to pass off an iPhone game image as proof of cooperation between the United States and an insurgent organization it is currently fighting against. The ruse was first pointed out by researcher and academic Eliot Higgins, who wrote up his findings on the online mythbusting website Bellingcat.
So here’s the English version of the caption @mod_russia put on a video game screenshot “ISIS automobile convoy leaves Abu Kamal for Syrian-Iraqi border (November 9th, 2017)” https://t.co/8uv2vbEHeQ pic.twitter.com/Ye7hX5HplH
— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) November 14, 2017
“It’s worth noting the Russian’s have literally and falsely accused the US of using fakes from video games, and now they’ve actually gone and done it themselves,” he said.
The photograph in question was later deleted, although not before it was shared widely and initially reported on as fact by other Russian news sites, such as Sputnik.
Higgins didn’t pull any punches in his analysis of this misrepresentation: “This is the best evidence the [Russian Ministry of Defense] are shameless liars, they take a video game screenshot then claim its from a specific location and date. Anything they say it 100% untrustworthy.”
The MoD has frequently been criticized for misusing and manipulating photographs in the past. You can read more of Bellingcat’s excellent investigation into some of the MoD’s actions with regards to Russia’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War here.
Amazingly, this isn’t the first time that Russian sources have used video games in a clear attempt at spreading misinformation, either. Last month, it was reported that Russian-linked actors had utilized Pokemon Go to spread disinformation in the run-up to the 2016 Presidential Election.