An old man with a beard, glasses and a cap is sitting in an armchair and looking at a photograph. He is featured in the video as “Horst Bauer”. Next, he’s inking tattoos in his colorfully decorated studio. In between is a sequence of German hospices and their alleged residents, getting free tattoos of Vladimir Putin, Sergei Lavrov, and other Russian politicians. Yes, it’s as silly as it sounds.
This is exactly what the English-language video currently circulating on Telegram (archived here) claims. twitter (archive here), which has already been played tens of thousands of times. The one-minute clip is designed in the style of DW video and is intended to give the impression of being produced by a foreign German broadcaster. In fact, the video is fake and especially ridiculous.
Claim: The hospice resident is said to have tattoos of Russian politicians and “destroy Russian leaders Putin, Medvedev, Shoigu, Lavrov and Kadyrov as living voodoo dolls.”
DW Fact Check: False
The content of the video is complete fiction and not by DW. Compiled using several old videos from various sources.
For example, one sequence (starting at 0:20) — as DW was able to discover using a reverse image search — shows a Guinness Book of Records holder, not a hospice resident: Derbyshire, UK. Jack Reynolds, who got the tattoo in 2016 at the age of 104, became the oldest person known to have one. Reynolds, who died in 2020, cannot be a resident of the German Hospice in Dürmen, as mentioned in the video.
Dürmen hospice reports case
Hospice was appalled to learn of the video only after DW’s investigation.
“We have never had a hospice resident get a tattoo on our premises. This is ridiculous.” The video reflected “endless arrogance and disrespect towards both residents and staff.” doing. The Spirit Foundation has filed a criminal complaint with the police against an unidentified person.
In fact, the video sequence showing the Anna Katarina Hospice in Dürmen is from a 2017 video that showcased the facility. Therefore, it does not reflect current filming at Hospice either.
The image of “Horst Bauer”, who is said to be a tattoo artist, is also old. And that person is not “Horst Bauer”, but Doc Price, a famous tattoo artist from Plymouth, England. According to himself, he is the oldest tattoo artist in the world.
When researching the sequences used, I found Price’s May 2021 documentary at the tattoo studio after doing a longer search on YouTube using search terms like “old tattoo artist”. I immediately recognized many sections from this on the fake DW video.
Therefore, the videos distributed on Telegram and Twitter are colorful remixes of older videos and none of the claims made there can be supported.
At first glance it looks like the real thing, but there are slight imperfections
Not only the content, but also the presentation of the video has some salient features. The fake video looks very similar to his real DW video, but if you look closely you can see that an error occurred while copying the DW video template. For example, 4 lines of text and language styles do not match his DW style guide. The text in the video and the DW logo are also slightly misaligned, both to the left. The position mark “Germany, Dülmen” at the beginning of the video has the wrong font, and as the comparison in the screenshot shows, he also deviates from DW in design and format.
Fake video doesn’t match DW’s font and design
Also noticeable are numerous grammatical and spelling errors. For example, the English video text uses the German word “Hospiz” instead of the English word “hospice”.
So there are a lot of details that formally reveal that the video is fake. However, on first impressions, many social media users thought the video was real and contacted DW about it.
Spoofing as a new form of disinformation
This isn’t the first time a fake DW video has gone viral on the internet. In June, his Twitter account in Japanese focused on the war in Ukraine. Suspicious DW Video (archive here) reports on apparent criminal refugees from Ukraine. Our fact-checking has shown that: The story is a hoax, the video is a fake, and an additional hoax.
First fake DW video known to DW Report on fictitious criminal case
However, this new fake seems to be much more successful. A Telegram post containing the hospice video reached over 25,000 users, with many more being retweeted and shared on other platforms. This is a spoof — a hoax meant to be funny.
Many hoaxes are not funny at all. The BBC, among other news outlets, has also been a victim of spoofing in the past when a video was released showing the BBC’s credentials for a missile attack on the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk. Also, a series of pro-Russian fake websites resembling German news portals recently caused an uproar in Germany.
Experts see clear evidence that traces of fake production are linked to Russia. Josephine Luquito, a professor of journalism and media at the University of Texas at Austin, sees the “expert structure” behind fake videos. Much of the pro-Russian disinformation can be attributed to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian troll factory that has been active since 2012.
“The long-term goal of this disinformation emanating from Russia is to sow distrust in the media system,” Luquito told DW in an interview. He said it could also be abused for other purposes. This is a relatively new phenomenon of disinformation, where news that is believed to be serious is published under a pseudonym.
Experts warn that Russia’s disinformation campaign will intensify in the fall in light of the worsening energy crisis.
So this may not be the last fake DW video circulating on the web.
This article was originally written in German.