Since the 24th of February 2022, date which marks the start of the Russian invasion into Ukraine, social media platforms have been filled with war imagery, giving an unforeseen insight into the conflict. Despite numerous journalists and photographers reporting from the afflicted areas, the majority of the footage is shared online by citizens or soldiers.This content, varying from drone footage or people posing in front of destroyed buildings, to soldiers performing TikTok dances on the battlefield, unveiled a side of human nature rarely seen before in other conflicts.
Because of the abundance of imagery uploaded every day online, it is almost impossible to trace this content back to its original source and context. When coming across war content on social media, most times this will have already been re-shared by multiple accounts, many of them not crediting the original source. When the source can be found, then it is also the content of the video that needs to be verified; such as its location and time.
Very often, old war footage is extrapolated and re-contextualised within the Ukrainian conflict, fuelling the spread of ‘fake news’. This kind of phenomenon is easy to expose as a reverse image search normally brings up results which help to identify the origin of these videos. On the other hand, computer created imagery is getting increasingly difficult to verify. As this is brand new content, an image search would not produce any useful results. In these cases, analysers have to look for a series of clues within the video. A popular military simulator game called Arma 3 is often used to create war imagery.
Similar footage was shared on Twitter by the Ukrainian Defence Ministry, selling it as real footage.
The images presented in this book are created using the same software, Arma 3. Through Arma 3, Top recreated war imagery inspired by real content that is shared online from people in the conflict zones. Using 3D models of the Ukrainian and Russian uniforms and the same type of guns and armour used, Top presents a faithful replica of online war imagery as posted by citizens or soldiers, highlighting how computer created imagery is becoming more and more realistic.
Through Staged Facts, Top hopes to bring awareness about the role of computer created imagery in spreading misinformation during times of conflict.