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Disinformation campaign uses fake footage to claim attack on USS Eisenhower

Aboard Navy ships tasked with securing the Red Sea
An inside look at U.S. Navy ships tasked with securing the Red Sea 05:56

False claims of a missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels against an American aircraft carrier in the Red Sea over the weekend were followed by a flood of doctored images and bogus videos online, which were amplified by pro-Chinese and pro-Russian social media accounts. 

The U.S. Navy said there was no truth to the messages claiming the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower had been severely damaged or possibly sunk. 

"The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) remains in the U.S. Central Command region. The sailors and the ship are ready and postured to respond to any contingency at a moment's notice," a Navy spokesperson told CBS News on Tuesday. "We are committed to protecting freedom of navigation and commerce in the region alongside our partners and allies."

On Friday, Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree announced missile strikes against the Eisenhower in response to U.S. support for Israel in its fight against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Soon after, videos and images falsely said to show the Eisenhower under attack and sitting damaged in port have racked up millions of views across social media platforms. 

Shortly after the Houthis announced their plan to attack, pro-Russian disinformation site The Intel Drop published an article claiming the USS Eisenhower had been hit by ballistic missiles. CBS News

Capt. Chris "Chowdah" Hill, the commanding officer of the Eisenhower, was posting photographs to social media showing him visiting the ship's bakery shop while the ship was supposedly critically damaged or sunk. On X, the former Top Gun instructor said jokingly: "I think we were sunk only twice this year."

Screenshot of a video shared on Chinese social media platform Weibo purportedly showing the Houthi attack on the USS Eisenhower. CBS News

More than 5,000 American service members serve on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier which deployed to the region following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in southern Israel. The Eisenhower and its flotilla of supporting warships make up the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier StrikeGroup

Screenshot of a video shared on Chinese social media platform BiliBili alleging the USS Eisenhower had been struck in an attack by Houthi rebels. The video has received over 1 million views on the platform. CBS News

Since October, the carrier group has participated in safeguarding critical shipping lanes from Houthi forces who continue to launch attacks against commercial vessels. 

Several users on X, formerly Twitter, linked the alleged footage of the attack to Arma 3, a popular military video game developed by Czech-based Bohemia Interactive. Arma 3 gameplay footage has previously been used to spread conflict disinformation. 

Screenshot of a video shared on Russian social media platform Telegram, claiming to be "epic footage" of the Houthi attack on the USS Eisenhower. CBS News

A CBS News analysis found the gameplay recordings quickly spread across Chinese and Russian social media sites after it was published by Russian disinformation sites, including The Intel Drop and the Pravda network, and several influential Chinese bloggers on Weibo. 

When asked about this recent use of their game footage to portray the alleged Eisenhower attack, Bohemia Interactive PR Manager Pavel Křižka told CBS News, "We've been trying to fight against such content by flagging these videos to platform providers, but to be honest it's very ineffective. With every video flagged, debunked, or taken down, ten more can be uploaded each day." 

He added: "We found the best way to tackle this is to actively cooperate with leading media outlets and fact-checkers. Sometimes it's great to see Arma 3 players and our community members actively helping to debunk such videos in comments sections – pointing out the footage is indeed fake."

Doctored satellite images of the damaged Eisenhower also circulated rapidly on social media, showing the vessel with a large explosion in the bow. Users on X used the platform's Community Notes feature to also point out the edited photos originated from a Google satellite image of the vessel docked at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia, and the "explosion" was digitally edited onto the vessel from a Shutterstock image.

Screenshot of a TikTok video shared showing alleged satellite imagery of the USS Eisenhower with damage from the Houthi attack. CBS News

"The Houthis control more than half of the country in Yemen to include military hardware. However, they are not recognized by a majority of nations as the legitimate government," Alex Plitsas, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told CBS News.

He added: "Their attack against Israel, U.S. and allied ships, and propaganda claiming false attacks are all designed to give them recognition and legitimacy as a power on the world stage." 

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