What’s a Deepfake? The Scariest Fake News, Explained

Imagine you could make the President of the United States say whatever you wanted, no matter how incendiary or volatile, on video. That’s the new normal, thanks to the frightening world of Deepfakes, a new AI-assisted technology that’s becoming ever-more available.

Yesterday (April 17)and actor/director/writer Jordan Peele (Get Out) demonstrated the dangerous potential of Deepfakes, with a video where a man who looks just like former President Barack Obama says the following: ‘So, for instance, they could have me say things like ‘Killmonger was right’ or ‘Ben Carson is in the Sunken Place,’ or ‘President Trump is a total and complete dipshit.”

that the video looked clumsy at first, but got ‘remarkably better’ once FakeApp had time to mash the mouth and face together.


How can you avoid getting fooled by Deepfakes?

The bad news is that we’re only in the infancy of Deepfakes, and the technology can only become more convincing as more and more people work on its improvement.

How fast is this technology moving? Deepfakes first gained popularity last December when a subreddit popped up to show how miscreants were using FakeAdd to swap celebrity faces into adult films. and areport documented how one clip wasn’t ‘going to fool anyone who looks closely. Sometimes the face doesn’t track correctly and there’s an uncanny valley effect at play, but at a glance it seems believable.’ Adobe’s even been developing a ‘photoshop for audio’ dubbed, but it may never see the light of day.

But back to the Deepfakes of today. If you squint closely at the mouth of Deepfake Obama, you can see a blurred area, that might remind Star Wars fans of how the mouth of Grand Moff Tarkin looked in the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, since the deceased actor Peter Cushing wasn’t there, but reborn in CGI.

Aside from that blur, and Peele’s voice not being Obama’s, there’s little in this video that signifies that it’s a forgery (minus the confession at the end).

So, your best bet is to use an old bit of journalistic wisdom and ‘consider the source.’ Don’t believe your eyes when you’re watching social media. Rely less on short videos posted online, and more on the content from reliable publications like The New York Times.

As Peele and Obama say in the video, ‘It may sound basic, but how we move forward in the Age of Information is going to be the difference between whether we survive or whether we become some kind of f*cked up dystopia.’

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