Friday, June 14, 2024
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Russian agents deploy AI-produced Tom Cruise narrator to tar Summer Olympics

A visual from the fake documentary <em>Olympics Has Fallen</em> produced by Russia-affiliated influence actor Storm-1679.
Enlarge / A visual from the fake documentary Olympics Has Fallen produced by Russia-affiliated influence actor Storm-1679.

Microsoft

Last year, a feature-length documentary purportedly produced by Netflix began circulating on Telegram. Titled “Olympics have Fallen” and narrated by a voice with a striking similarity to that of actor Tom Cruise, it sharply criticized the leadership of the International Olympic Committee. The slickly produced film, claiming five-star reviews from The New York Times, Washington Post, and BBC, was quickly amplified on social media. Among those seemingly endorsing the documentary were celebrities on the platform Cameo.

A recently published report by Microsoft (PDF) said the film was not a documentary, had received no such reviews, and that the narrator’s voice was an AI-produced deep fake of Cruise. It also said the endorsements on Cameo were faked. The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Report went on to say that the fraudulent documentary and endorsements were only one of many elaborate hoaxes created by agents of the Russian government in a yearlong influence operation intended to discredit the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and deter participation and attendance at the Paris Olympics starting next month.

Other examples of the Kremlin’s ongoing influence operation include:

  • A video purporting to be from Brussels-based media outlet Euro News claimed Parisians were buying property insurance in anticipation of terrorism at the Games.
  • A fake video pretending to come from French broadcaster France24 claimed that 24 percent of tickets for the games had been returned due to fears of terrorism.
  • Fake video press releases were produced posing as coming from the CIA and the French General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) warning potential attendees to stay away from the Paris 2024 Olympics due to the alleged risk of a terror attack.
  • An array of 15 unique French-language “news” sites, including a core disinformation outlet named Reliable Recent News (RRN) that made claims of rampant IOC corruption and warned of potential violence at the Games. The sites attempt to impersonate French outlets Le Parisien and Le Point to amplify the claims and castigate French President Emmanuel Macron and his government.

Members of the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center—a team that tracks hacking and influence campaigns of nation-state actors—have attributed most of the activity to two distinct groups tracked under the names Storm-1679 and Storm-1099. Both groups have spent years sowing Kremlin talking points in Western media.

“Starting in June 2023, prolific Russian influence actors—which Microsoft tracks as Storm-1679 and Storm-1099—pivoted their operations to take aim at the 2024 Olympic Games and French President Emmanuel Macron,” MTAC members wrote. “These ongoing Russian influence operations have two central objectives: to denigrate the reputation of the IOC on the world stage; and to create the expectation of violence breaking out in Paris during the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.”