This footage is from a video game and predates Iran’s attack against Israel

Over the last few days social media have been flooded with images and videos related to Iran’s drone and missile attack against Israel. Among them Bulgarian profiles and groups have been sharing footage from a video simulation, claiming that it shows Israel’s actual Iron Dome air defence system in operation during the April 13 attack.

The original Facebook video was published on 11 December 2023. The date is visible in some of the posts sharing the footage over the last few days. Regardless of that, users claim the video shows ‘the beginning of Iran’s attack against Israel’. examined the footage and found that it is part of a video simulation. Text in Chinese in the upper left corner of the screen says: ‘Game screen is for entertainment only’. Some elements in the video are not fully realistic – for example the puffs of smoke that appear when air defence missiles intercept a target and the way they disperse after each explosion.

This is not the first case of videogame footage being presented as actual imagery from a military conflict. Fact-checks by AFP and Reuters from last year found that posts of this type were especially common in October, in the days following the Hamas attack in Israel. The videos circulating back then were found to be from Arma 3, a videogame developed by the Czech company Bohemia Interactive.

Our team contacted the company to confirm if the video circulating among Bulgarian Facebook users was also from Arma 3 but by the time of publication a definitive confirmation had not been received.

Due to the frequent use of footage from the game for disinformation purposes, in October 2023 Bohemia Interactive published a press release warning users to be vigilant. The press release also contains concrete tips from the game developers on how to spot the CGI imagery.

The advice says that as a rule videogame footage used for disinformation contains night-time shots, because darkness covers up the insufficiently realistic details in the videos. Another tip is that the game interface often contains in-game messages or text that can still be visible in the videos, usually at the edges or in the corners of the frame. Even advanced game graphics typically have issues depicting explosions, smoke, fire and dust in a fully realistic way, which is why details of that kind can be a useful clue for spotting CGI footage.

According to Arma 3 developers, in the past footage from the game has been presented as videos from real-life conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine and even India and Pakistan, but more recently it has been widely used to make claims about the war in Ukraine.

After the April 13 attack the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) published an official video, showing Iran’s drones and missiles actually being intercepted by air defence. The video can be useful for the purpose of comparison against the CGI footage.

According to official IDF information, during the attack the air defence system intercepted 170 drones and 30 cruise missiles, none of which entered Israeli territory, and 120 ballistic missiles, only few of which managed to enter Israeli territory.

This article was first published on the website.

Vassilena Dotkova

Vassilena Dotkova is a graduate of Sofia University with a degree in English. She has worked in print and online media. As editor at the printed daily Dnevnik and the news website she was part of a team covering environmental issues and the green transition. Her other interests include diverse areas such as literature, sociolinguistics, social sciences and international relations. She has translated fiction and philosophical works from English into Bulgarian. She spent years of her life in the UK and Scandinavia and also has a working knowledge of Norwegian, Swedish and Danish.