The internet has completely revolutionized the way we live our lives and interact with one another. The virtual world, as we know it, is undergoing constant changes. And with that, we are noticing an influx of unique technologies and innovations for multiple internet-enabled devices.
Smartphone cameras, for instance, have become so advanced; you can take ultra HD pictures that can compete with the high-quality results of a DSLR. Similarly, camera apps now allow users to remove pimples, elongate legs, add different filters, and even change their gender/age (via FaceApp).
One can say that “photoshopping” and editing still images has been a mainstay of the digital culture, but as we advance further, things are taking a turn for the worst. Falsified videos (a.k.a. Deepfakes) made by the means of deep learning (a subset of AI) are now increasingly finding their way online.
Relying on machine learning, these videos introduce a convincing digital “face-graft”, where the expressions of one individual are carefully morphed onto the head of another. Meanwhile, existing recordings of a person’s voice and mouth movements can be reverse engineered to say any sentence.
The results of these manipulated videos can be amazingly convincing. Since they seem so “real”, It’s difficult to dissect what’s fake and what’s not. And although Deepfakes have only been around a few years, they are playing a vital role in the new era of digital threats, causing us to inquire everything.
A menace to society, elections, and politicians
Deepfakes play with the perceptions and sentiments of people around us. There have been numerous cases; some hilarious and others very confusing regarding deepfakes getting viral on the internet of current U.S. President, Donald Trump. And others that spark huge debates in the society.
Starting with something light, deepfakes also come in the form of straight-up comedy and parody. YouTube creator Ctrl-Shift Face, took the scenes from the famous “Better Call Saul” and introduces Donald Trump as Jim McGill (the character who plays Saul Goodman). In the scene, Donald Trump is shown telling the details of money laundering to Walter White and Jessie Pinkman.
As the first known case of a political party using a deepfake, there was a video posted by Belgium’s Socialistische Partij Anders (sp.a), wherein Trump is found taunting Belgium for accepting and remaining in the Paris Climate Agreement. It’s very clearly fake, but it still did trigger huge outrage with many telling Trump that he should worry about his own country.
Hurts the dignity and reputation of celebrities
One of the huge consequences of deepfakes is that they are used for creating sexually explicit videos and images of celebrities. There seems to be quite a huge industry of porn Deepfakes of celebrities to enable the transfer of sexual fantasies from imaginations of people on the internet.
Some popular celebrities targeted into deepfakes include Emma Watson, Natalia Portman, and Gal Gadot. There is even a category dedicated to such videos on a website called adultdeepfakes.com. Meanwhile, other popular figures like the owner of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg have also fallen victim to deepfake videos going viral on the internet.
In this deepfake video posted on Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg reveals the truth about “privacy” on Facebook. It was to be an immersive exploration of the digital industry, but later turned out the video is fake. Instagram did not remove the video, but said it would “treat this content the same way we treat all misinformation on Instagram. If third-party fact checkers mark it as false, we will filter it.”
Nowadays, many people look for interesting information on the internet, particularly through news aggregation sites and social media channels. The problem with such data-hunting is that there are many instances, content is posted without any authentication about their legitimacy.
Facebook has collaborated with fact-checking tools to eliminate such fake news, but with the arrival of digital threats like deepfakes, thing are getting a whole lot complicated. When people find out, that a video, which appears to be incredibly real, is actually fake, they begin to question everything!
As a result, deepfakes among other methods of disinformation are having a huge impact in 2020, eliminating the trust factor regarding news circulating online. Users will be more hesitant now on trusting news on social media and will inquire about its legitimacy.
Wrapping things up
The implications of deepfakes increasing in 2020 will undoubtedly result in more fake news circulating as real, across the world. You can expect conspiracy theorists taking advantage of such technology, and other malicious actors adapting their techniques to fool people into revealing private information – a risk to your online identity and anonymity, which cannot be catered by VPNs either!