Several celebrities shared a new advertising campaign that uses manipulated “deepfake” videos of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinRussia tightens restrictions as virus infections, deaths rise Biden should end the confusion and say America will defend Taiwan New hacking efforts show Russia undeterred by US actions MORE and North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — US 'deeply alarmed' by reports of military takeover in Sudan Is Kim Jong Un angling for nuclear talks on his terms? North Korean showcases shirtless soldiers lying on broken glass, smashing bricks on head MORE to suggest the greatest threat to democracy is voter suppression rather than foreign interference and the domestic spread of misinformation.
The anti-corruption nonprofit RepresentUs created the ads with creative agency Mischief @ No Fixed Address, with numerous celebrities, including Amy SchumerAmy Beth SchumerWill Hollywood abandon Texas over abortion law? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate to vote on infrastructure bill; budget package up next Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart to headline star-studded 9/11 benefit show MORE, Sia and director Adam McKay, promoting the campaign on social media.
“America, you blame me for interfering with your democracy, but I don’t have to,” one of the videos says, attributing the words to Putin. “Polling stations are closing, you don’t know who to trust, you are divided. There are strings we can pull, but we don’t have to. You are pulling them for us.”
It’s not hard for democracy to collapse. All you have to do is nothing. Find out the six things you can do to save the election @RepresentUs. #SaveTheVote @RepresentUs https://t.co/0g3W57dlEG https://t.co/djIPYwZsIn pic.twitter.com/1FKc3wZPCJ— Amy Schumer (@amyschumer) September 29, 2020
“For decades, America has been gerrymandered, votes have been suppressed and voters purged, money has taken over our political system,” RepresentUs Co-Founder and President Joshua Graham Lynn said in a statement. “In 2020, we’re seeing it all come home to roost. By featuring two leaders who have a vested interest in the collapse of our democratic system, we are putting the American people face-to-face with just how fragile our democracy really is. We hope it inspires Americans to come together to fight for this one issue that unites us all.”
The videos are accompanied by a guide showing viewers steps they can take to “save the election,” such as volunteering as a poll worker and lobbying state officials to count every vote.
The group said the campaign, the first to use deepfake technology, purchased airtime in the Washington, D.C., area for CNN, Fox News and MSNBC markets but they were canceled before they could air Tuesday evening.
A Fox News spokesperson told The Hill that RepresentUs never approached Fox's national operation about the ad.
MSNBC and CNN did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, confirmed it rejected a paid media campaign for the ad because of its use of manipulated media.
"Our policies are meant to keep advertisers from running ads that are fundamentally edited to distort reality (like deepfakes, or photoshopped images)," Google spokesperson Charlotte Smith told The Hill. "We removed this ad in accordance with this policy."
A 2019 report by New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights suggested deepfake technology would likely be a major source of disinformation leading up to the 2020 election, specifically on platforms like Instagram.