VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Maria Ressa NOT endorsing ‘bitcoin platform’

February 28, 2024


A website alternately imitating online news sites Rappler and the now-defunct CNN Philippines have published a report allegedly showing a “deleted interview” of Nobel laureate Maria Ressa supposedly promoting a cryptocurrency platform. This is fake.

Neither news outlet published such a report. The “interview” of Rappler’s chief executive officer, with transcription provided, never happened. The video used a Ressa deepfake. 

“This is definitely a deep fake. […] We are investigating the incident and have reached out to concerned platforms for help in rooting out the actors behind this,” Gemma Mendoza, Rappler’s Lead Researcher for Disinformation and Platforms, told VERA Files.

American TV host Stephen Colbert interviewed Ressa on his late-night show in November 2022. The footage was manipulated using artificial intelligence to make it appear like Ressa was talking about a “cryptocurrency training program.” 

The scheme required people to “invest Php 14,500 and earn [at least] Php 120,000 monthly without much labor.”

A fake article supplemented the bogus clip, where Ressa supposedly identified the platform as ‘Bitcoin Method’ and even helped Colbert set up an account.

The original copy of the interview published by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on its official YouTube channel did not show Ressa discussing cryptocurrency, or helping the host create an account on air. 

CNN Philippines’ website (cnnphilippines.com) has been taken down since the media organization shut down operations last Jan 31. This disproves the report supposedly published by CNN Philippines on Feb. 5, the date indicated in the report.

An advancement in the AI-generated news report is its ability to switch layouts to imitate Rappler and CNN Philippines sites just by reloading the page. 

Clicking on the comments redirects to a sign-up page for Bitcoin Method, which asks for personal information.

The fake report in the bogus website (ultimainv.website/phnewone) was published on Jan. 26 according to its Page Source, but it circulated on social media around the same time global news channel Al Jazeera launched its special series “The AI series with Maria Ressa” in early February.

Although Facebook (FB) posts that shared the link to the fake website have already been deleted, its link with the URL remains live.

Have you seen any dubious claims, photos, memes, or online posts that you want us to verify? Fill out this reader request form or send it to VERA, the truth bot on Viber.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)



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VERA Files

VERA Files is a nonstock, nonprofit, independent media organization. Founded in March 2008, it is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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