Deepfake 'Pan Africanists' support Burkina Faso military junta

Occurred: January 2023

Fake AI-generated videos of people supporting Burkina Faso’s new military junta have been circulating online in an apparent to bolster its position, power and legitimacy. 

The videos were found to have been created using London-based AI video creation platform Synthesia, which offers a cheap, easy-to-use catalogue of over a hundred multiracial faces. The company later banned the user who had created the videos, though refused to identify the individual or entity.

Social media users and commentators speculated that the creator may have been Russian private military company the Wagner Group, which has reputedly become active in Burkina Faso. Russia has been deploying deepfakes in its war with Ukraine, notably a faked video of Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy instructing his army to lay down their arms and surrender.  

Burkina Faso's military junta took power in a coup in October 2022 in which the military government of Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba was overthrown by his rival Captain Ibrahim Traoré.

The AI videos were seen to highlight the ease with which deepfakes can be used for propaganda purposes, and to undermine democracy.

Operator: Wagner Group
Developer: Synthesia

Country: Burkino Faso

Sector: Politics

Purpose: Scare/confuse/destabilise

Technology: Deepfake - audio, video; Generative adversarial network (GAN); Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning
Issue: Ethics/values; Mis/disinformation
Transparency: Governance; Marketing