The platform, as you likely know, allows people to pay for personalized video messages from celebrities, athletes and influencers that are delivered to loved ones. These messages are typically about sending birthday wishes, congratulations on happy events or words of encouragement for people going through tough times.
But the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center reported that the service was recently used for a much more nefarious end.
Actors including Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), Kate Flannery (The Office)and John McGinley (Scrubs) were among those paid to create messages for someone named “Vladimir.” The messages were “pleading with him to seek help for substance abuse,” according to the report.
The videos were then edited by unknown players to appear to be addressing Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, to advance the false Russian claim that the leader struggles with substance abuse problems. In a previously widely circulated video where Zelensky appears to be happily admitting to using cocaine for an energy boost, analysis from Reuters found it was altered and he was talking about coffee.
The New York Times reports that Cameo released a statement re-iterating the company’s community guidelines: “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.”
A representative for Wood told the Times that the actor did create the video for Cameo, but it was “in no way intended to be addressed to Zelensky or have anything at all to do with Russia or Ukraine or the war.”
Earlier this week, Cameo made headlines after it added disgraced former congressman George Santos to its roster. According to Semafor, Santos is in high demand and is on track to make his yearly congressional salary of $174,000 in just a few weeks. His most prominent customer to date is Senator John Fetterman (D-PA), who bought a Cameo to troll indicted Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ).