US celebrities ‘unwittingly recruited’ for Cameo disinformation campaign against Moldovan president

President of Moldova Maia Sandu, October 2023
President of Moldova Maia Sandu, October 2023 Copyright Anthony Anex/Keystone via AP
Copyright Anthony Anex/Keystone via AP
By Anna Desmarais
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A new report outlines an effort to use US celebrities via Cameo to target the president of Moldova.


Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, was the target of an attack campaign last September: a seemingly coordinated effort by US celebrities on Cameo, an online video platform, calling for her to be brought down.

The catch: the celebrities, including Dolph Lundgren, Lindsay Lohan, Brian Baumgartner, were manipulated into leveling the geopolitical attacks.

That’s the conclusion of a new report by the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), a think tank that studies misinformation and the future of digital rights.

Cameo is a platform that lets users pay celebrities and television stars to record a video with whatever text they want read. Customers specify who the message is for and why it should be recorded, pay the rate identified by the celebrity, and receive the video.

Euronews Next reached out to Cameo for comment but did not receive a reply before publication.

The videos start with a warm greeting to the president but then they are interrupted by a Russian text: “We, Hollywood stars, support the people of Moldova in their desire to overthrow you, Sandu. We join the flash mob #DavaiteSkinemSandu” (which translates to #Let’sBringDownSandu in Russian).

The report from DFRLab said that the videos appeared to not be deepfakes but instead were edited by using fake subtitles “without the consent of the celebrities involved”.

The video was shared by prominent pro-Russian channels on Telegram, amassing at least a couple hundred thousand views.

The report comes to the conclusion that the operations are trying to “discredit and weaken Moldova’s current pro-European administration,” because President Sandu is “shift[ing] toward European integration an away from Russia’s sphere of influence”.

Moldova’s next election is scheduled for the fall, and Sandu is running for re-election. Local media say she is tying her reelection bid to "total EU integration".

The EU decided in December to open accession negotiations with both Ukraine and Moldova.

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