After the scandal surrounding the video conversation with a fake Vitali Klitschko, Berlin’s governing mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) now wants to speak to the real Kiev mayor.
The conversation should take place “in the next few days until mid-July,” said the governor on Tuesday after the Senate meeting. So that this time the real Klitschko can actually be seen on the screen, there should be a test beforehand. “In the future we will work with a pre-test to see if it’s real,” she said.
Giffey was caught in a video call on Friday by a scammer posing as Vitali Klitschko. But several sets of questions made Giffey and her employees suspicious during the conversation, which the person on the other end of the line wanted to have in Russian, before the connection was finally broken off.
Similar to Giffey, other city leaders have fared. In addition to the mayors of Vienna, Budapest and Madrid, the mayor of Warsaw also made a video call with an alleged Vitali Klitschko that was later revealed to be a forgery. Rafal Trzaskowski’s conversation with the alleged mayor of Kiev took place at the beginning of June, Polish media reported.
After several such fake phone calls from a fake Klitschko had become public in the past few days, Trzaskowski confirmed his conversation to Radio Zet on Monday evening. “You can see that there is a systematic approach here,” said Giffey, referring to the other cases of fraud.
It remains unclear what form of manipulation the fraud involved. The Senate Chancellery initially spoke of a “deep fake”. This involves media content that has been manipulated using artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. According to the Senate Chancellery, there had been no indication that he was not speaking to a real person.
The ARD journalist Daniel Laufer had previously doubted that it was a “deep fake”. Accordingly, the five published images correspond exactly to an interview that Klitschko gave to a Ukrainian journalist in April – and have now served as material for the deception. There are no deviations in the facial expressions or in the background, which is likely if manipulation with AI is used.
Video footage of the interview at the time may have been used as a basis and merged in real time with the voice and lip movements of the person actually speaking to Giffey. Experts refer to this as a “face reenactment”.
Since there is no recording of the conversation, the exact method of deception can no longer be determined afterwards, Giffey and Berlin’s Chief Digital Officer Ralf Kleindiek said unanimously on Tuesday.
The state security department at the Berlin State Criminal Police Office (LKA) is now investigating the fake phone call. “We’re trying to find out what motivated the perpetrators,” Giffey said. It will be determined what punishment is actually available in the matter. Ultimately, it is about stealing the identity of Kiev mayor Klitschko.
An attack on the Berlin state network was not accompanied by the fake conversation, said Kleindiek. There is “no evidence” for that. In the future, those involved will probably have to be even more careful. From a purely technical point of view, Kleindiek said, the possibilities for detecting fraud are limited.