When Russian state TV showed “one of the most advanced robots” dancing to the Little Big song “Skibidi” in front of excited children at an education fair in the city of Yaroslavl, it turned out not to be a robot, but a man in a costume.

The Russian tech website Tjournal quickly questioned the authenticity of the claim made by the Kremlin-controlled channel Rossiya 24, asking a number of questions; e.g. why “Boris”, as the robot was called, had not been presented anywhere by the scientists who would have developed it and “why it makes so many unnecessary moves when it dances”.

Click to watch Rossiya 24’s original news item about Boris the Robot. Boris appears at 02:32.

 

The story about Boris went viral worldwide and was covered by The Guardian and The New York Times and many other media inside and outside Russia.

Rossiya 24 first took their story down on Youtube, but later republished it and did a separate story about the reactions, singling out negative coverage in Ukraine.

Rossiya 24 also criticised media for “mocking” their correspondent for his “not entirely successful creative decision” instead of focusing on the opportunities for school children that had been on display at the education fair.

The TV station felt misunderstood. As the journalist behind the story said in a comment, “I was just completely sure that everyone, like with Santa Claus, would definitely be able to see that this was a children’s entertainer dressed in a costume”.

The story about Boris the Robot would perhaps have been just an entertaining case of “fake news”, had it not been for the track record of previous “not entirely successful creative decisions” from the side of Russian state media:

When Rossiya 24 broadcast “irrefutable proof that the US provides cover for ISIS combat troops”, it turned out to be screenshots from a promotional video for a computer game called “AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron”.

When Rossiya 24 tried to portray protests against labour laws in France as anti-EU demonstrations, the interviews turned out to have been mistranslated from the French in order to fit the channel’s story.

When RT (Russia Today) claimed that Putin is so popular in the US that a New York restaurant has a burger named after him on its menu, it also turned out to be a piece of fiction.

When Pervy Kanal, another state TV channel, showed battle scenes from Syria, the footage turned out to be taken from the computer game “Arma 3”.

When Pervy Kanal recently interviewed a “Ukranian” complaining about his country, he turned out to be a Belarusian actor.

When Pervy Kanal showed secretive footage of the British 77th Brigade at work, it turned out to be a public recruiting video which did not show the 77th Brigade.

For an overview of disinformation that has appeared on Rossiya 24 and its sister channel, Rossiya 1, follow this link to our database.

Top image: Screenshot from Rossiya 24.