News and Commentary

Deepfakes: Digitally-Altered Video Could Become A Serious Problem

Could counterfeit videos featuring digitally-altered faces become a problem for the future? Experts say yes.

According to CBS News, sweeping the web now is a revolution in the digital age that can paste an individual’s face over another’s body, creating an all-too-convincing illusion that it’s the real thing. Take a look at this video of President Trump’s face pasted over Alec Baldwin’s impression of him on SNL:

Hollywood used to spend big money to achieve that kind of realistic effect. Now, somebody can do it from the comfort of their mother’s basement.

“The idea that someone could put another person’s face on an individual’s body, that would be like a homerun for anyone who wants to interfere in a political process,” said Virginia Senator Mark Warner. “This is now going to be the new reality, surely by 2020, but potentially even as early as this year.”

“There is no Democrat or a Republican that would be safe from this kind of manipulation. But, boy oh boy, we need as a country to get our act together.”

Here’s another video that did something similar with Vladimir Putin:

Called “Deepfakes,” the illusion is created through a “machine learning” software that can superimpose celebrity faces onto the bodies of other people.

Hany Farid of Dartmouth College says society is not ready for the deepfake revolution.

“We are absolutely not ready for this. We are absolutely not ready for it,” Farid replied. “On so many different levels, we’re not ready for it.”

A program for Adobe can even create new audio from written text. Farid says that’s “terrifying.”

“Right out of the gate, that’s terrifying,” Farid said. “I mean, that is just terrifying. Now I can create the president of the United States saying just about anything.”

Adobe recognizes the technology could have “objectionable use,” but they ultimately feel “the positive impact of technology will always overshadow the negative.”

As far as the entertainment industry goes, the more the merrier, but as far as day-to-day life, things could get complicated, and people could weaponize the technology to make it seem people said and did things they did not. No need for it to be an over-produced extravaganza, as it could be something as simple as tweaking one or two words in a sentence to disparage someone.

“I think the nightmare situation is a fake video of a politician saying, ‘I have launched nuclear weapons against a country.’ The other country reacts within minutes, seconds, and we have a global nuclear war,” Farid said.

Farid hopes that tools developed by himself and others will be useful to quickly identify “deepfake” technology.

“We have a ‘fake news’ phenomenon that is not going away,” he said. “And so add to that fake images, fake audio, fake video, and you have an explosion of what I would call an information war.”

Another deepfake problem is in the area of internet porn, where celebrity faces like Gal Gadot and Scarlett Johansson have been pasted onto real porn actors. Just last month, Pornhub announced that all deepfake videos would henceforth be banned from airing.

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