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Facebook ads manipulate biomedical professor’s videos to promote medical content

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Claim: Some sponsored Facebook adverts showed a veteran biomedical engineering professor, Samuel Achilefu, advertising a natural solution for high blood pressure that he claimed would cure seven diseases in seven weeks.

Facebook ads manipulate biomedical professor’s videos to promote medical content

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High blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension is a significant public health concern in Nigeria, with prevalence rates ranging from around 27 to 38% in recent years. Nigeria’s high burden of hypertension is concerning, as it is the most populous country in Africa.

Simeon Isezuo, the Nigerian Hypertension Society’s president, said one in three Nigerian adults is hypertensive. The prominence of the health condition spurred many Nigerians to look for alternative remedies to reduce falling prey.

Fluate, a Facebook page, posted a video of a television interview. Though the presenter was unidentified, the studio backdrop strongly resembled TVC Communications, a prominent television station in Nigeria. However, the guest was identified as Samuel Achilefu, a Nigerian-born biomedical engineering professor who invented high-tech infrared goggles that enable doctors to identify cancerous cells during surgery.

In the post, he was seen to advertise a natural, locally-made remedy to combat hypertension in Nigeria. The post depicted him describing Nigeria as a country with millions of walking corpses due to their negligence to health. Though the drug promised to eliminate seven diseases in seven weeks, it was not named till the video ended.

Since it was posted on May 17, 2024, it has gained 998 comments and more than 7,600 reactions, while more than 1,400 users reshared the post as of June 19, 2024.

However, when we attempted to access existing comments, only the poster’s comment directing viewers to click a link for further information was visible, depicting a page with possible shading intent. 

Another post on Anna Uniogo’s account showed the professor advertising another product for hypertension. We clicked the link, and it redirected us to a website promoting “Normatone.” The website claimed that the Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases’s website treated 2,000 cardiovascular patients with Normatone, which improved participants’ overall health without recording adverse reactions.

But DUBAWA found Hosanna Archibong, a Facebook user who commented that she had not received her order despite paying more than N45,000 for delivery since June 3, 2024. We contacted her via Facebook but received no response about her ordeal, which prompted DUBAWA to fact-check the post.

Verification

After critically observing the video, we discovered anomalies that raised red flags. Apart from the video’s low-quality resolution, the speakers’ mouths were blurred as they moved. As Siwei Lyu, a professor of machine learning and digital media, describes, these are common traits to identify when observing a deepfake video.

In different instances, keyframes of herbs, leaves, and health-related diagrams were inserted in the video, which indicates a homemade edited video, as a proper television interview session will not display such keyframes. 

Also, both speakers’ voice-speech synchronisation lacks communication cohesion, broadly indicating a case of digital alteration. This is more evident in Mr Achilefu’s part of the video. DUBAWA has carried out related reports here, here, and here.

Professor responds

DUBAWA searched Mr Achilefu’s social media pages on Twitter and LinkedIn to confirm whether he had advertised such products but found none. When we contacted him via LinkedIn, he urged DUBAWA to help inform the general public about the inauthenticity of the AI-generated advertisements. 

“I had communicated to many authorities and written disclaimers on social media about these harmful ads. Please help spread the word about the fake news generated via deepfake AI,” he said.

Conclusion

The post altered the video with a digital manipulation tool to advertise the unidentified cardiovascular drug mischievously. Mr Achilefu did not endorse such a product. The advert is a deepfake intended to mislead social media users.

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