Deepfake videos are a growing concern as they can rapidly spread false information and discredit people. Regulation may be necessary to address this issue.
Election season has begun and with it, a nightmare for politicalcandidates is just starting to take flight. I’m talking about deepfake videos,you know, those videos that if done professionally, it’s impossible todetermine if the person recorded talking or doing any activity in a video, isactually the real person doing it.
I was invited by Despierta America, Univision’s national morningshow, to do a deep dive and explain deepfake videos to the public alongside theirreporter Marcela Sarmiento.
We created a quick deepfake video using a readily available onlineplatform with just a few keystrokes. We then took a publicly available videofrom Nobel-price-winner Malala Yousafzai and merged it with a quick video wetook of the reporter here in our office. The results? We placed the reporter’seyes, nose and mouth onto her face. I have to confess; it looks a little weird,but we didn’t spend much time or try very hard. We also didn’t do any audiosubstitution or tweaking of any kind, just uploaded the master video of thesubject to mask another video and that was it.
The point was made easily. With little effort, minimum graphics andvideo knowledge, anybody can create a deepfake video for anyone that canincriminate, discredit and much worse, rapidly propagate false information.
The Deepfake phenomenon is pretty concerning for society overall, especiallynow that the election cycle has started. Imagine watching a video of apolitical candidate saying something inappropriate like a racial slur or takinga radical position that might offend their followers. Even if later determinedto be a fake, the damage to their reputation is already done.
We live in an era of synthetic media where now videos can be weaponized and quickly propagated. In some cases, even a professional could not differentiate between a deepfake video and a real one. Recently, an artist uploaded a deepfake video of Mark Zuckerberg that honestly doesn’t look that real, but he did it to prove a point. Facebook has decided that for now, it’s not going to remove deepfake videos but I think that’s a decision they’ll soon regret.
I predict that politicians will soon take a stand and pass a lawthat prohibits or curtails the creation of these videos, since it affects themdirectly. Even with that, you can’t regulate a foreign power from weaponizingthese videos. You think the 2016 election had a lot of fake news and foreign manipulation?Get ready, this next one is going to be for the books.
Changing videos and manipulating them in these ways is definitelynot a new thing, what changes with deepfake videos is that the threshold hasbeen lowered. Before, it would take a Hollywood studio or a company with vastresources to create something like this. Now, you don’t even need a powerfulcomputer to do it since it can be done by leveraging the graphic processingpower of computers in the cloud.
This is a brave new era. Thanks to advanced audio editing, for many years now, you can’t believe what you hear. Now, thanks to deepfake videos and synthetic media, you can’t believe what you see either, at least not on the internet.