Cameo is a platform that connects celebrities, from Hollywood or otherwise, to their fans seamlessly. Fans can request certain customized videos from their favorite celebrities that they can share on social media or show to their friends and family. Most people use the platform for fun and also get a chance to interact with their favorite celebrities in exchange for a couple hundred dollars. However, recently, the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center published a blog where it came out that many celebrities were being duped into recording anti-Ukraine propaganda videos by Russians, and it almost derailed their careers.
Hollywood icons who were tricked into recording anti-Zelenskyy propaganda
Hollywood celebrities like Elijah Wood from Lord of the Rings, Dean Norris from Breaking Bad, Kate Flannery from The Office, Priscilla Presley, and John McGinley from Scrubs found themselves in hot water after it was found that their videos were being used for propaganda by the Russians. According to the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center’s blog post, it has been going on since the beginning of July:
“Russia-aligned influence actors have tricked celebrities into providing video messages that were then used in pro-Russian propaganda.”
The blog continued to say that the videos of the Hollywood actors were illegally doctored to make it look like Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had a drug problem:
“[It was] manipulated to falsely paint Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky as a drug addict.”
Many Hollywood actors and other celebrities, like the singer Shavo Odadjian, were asked on Cameo to send a video message addressing a certain “Vladimir.” The message instruction included asking “Vladimir” to seek help for his substance abuse problems. Later, it was doctored to sound like the celebrities were saying Volodymyr.
Russia has long been proclaiming that the Ukrainian leader and other Ukrainian politicians have a drug abuse problem to gain support for the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. In a Cameo video by Elijah Wood, he is seen saying, “I hope you get the help that you need. Lots of love, Vladimir, take care.” The video was then modified with emojis, links, and press logos like TMZ and distributed across social media “to advance longstanding false Russian claims that the Ukrainian leader struggles with substance abuse,” the Microsoft blog said.
IndieWire tried to reach out to the concerned Hollywood celebrities. However, only Kate Flannery talked through her assistant and said that she is “deeply upset” by this political propaganda and misuse of her trust.
What did Cameo have to say about the whole situation?
When IndieWire reached out to Cameo, they did say it was against their policy to talk about the details of their Trust & Safety investigations; however, what happened was indeed against their policies, and they are taking all the necessary steps:
“As a matter of company policy, Cameo doesn’t publicly comment on the details of its Trust & Safety investigations. That said, bookings of the sort you describe would violate Cameo’s Community Guidelines, and in cases where such violations are substantiated Cameo will typically take steps to remove the problematic content and suspend the purchaser’s account to help prevent further issues.”
Cameo boasts thousands of celebrities for hire. This alternative method of income for celebrities became increasingly popular, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when all the productions were shut down, and recently during the SAG-AFTRA strike, which also shuttered all production.
Some celebrities, like SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher, donate all their Cameo money to the charity.