L’app Recover born to create meme using the deep fakebut after the invasion of Ukraine it becomes one tool for communicating with the Russian population. By leveraging the service’s popularity, the Kyiv-based startup found a way to showcase the horrors of war bypassing censorship of the Kremlin.
Reface, the Ukrainian app that spreads information by bypassing Russian censorship
The CEO of Reface, Dima Shvetstold The Verge how the early days of the Russian invasion were a shock huge. Some staff members of approx 200 people they found themselves literally taking up their rifles to fight the Russian advance, others had to take refuge in bunkers and subway stations to resist the bombing.
But after the shock came the desire to fight this invasion, in any way possible. The Reface app uses machine learning to create deep fakes by mistaking users’ faces for insert them into GIFs, movie videos, memes. AND very popular in Russia.
For this the team created a video showing the images of the invasion, taking photographs and videos from social media. They then wrote a short text to make sure the images were associated with the terror of the Kyiv attack. Then they sent to the millions of users in Russia and all over the world those images, with a push notification. Praying to join the protests and support Ukraine.
The message also arrived in Russia
The manager in charge of communication at Reface, Daria Kravetshe explains: “We know that the Russians do not have access to the real situation here because the independent media is blocked. But we have five million users in Russia and we sent two million push notifications. We continue to send them. And in those notifications we add videos of the real situation and encourage people to protest because it is the only way to change the situation ”.
Russian censorship prevents us from verifying whether these notifications are having an effect. But Reface’s team didn’t want to stop and look at the result, they moved on. Now the app shows i yellow and blue colors of the Ukrainian flagshowing links to support the resistance war effort.
Plus the app added the Ukrainian president Zelensky to the list of faces to face-swap. So all users can put their face on the video of the president walking among the troops and “Slava Ukraini!” ‘, Glory to Ukraine.
The effect of these interventions is difficult to understand. But as the communications team member explains Ksenia Maslova: “If you have a medical degree, go help in hospitals. If you have communication skills, try to prepare texts like these “. A way to fight the invasion, using memes and deepfakes.