Encountering altered videos and photoshopped images is almost a rite of passage on the internet. It's rare these days that you'd visit social media and not come across some form of edited content -- whether that be a simple selfie with a filter, a highly embellished meme or a video edited to add a soundtrack or enhance certain elements. But while some forms of media are obviously edited, other alterations may be harder to spot. You may have heard the term "deepfake" in recent years -- it first came about in 2017 to describe videos and images that implement deep learning algorithms to create videos and images that look real. For example, take the moon disaster speech given by former president Richard Nixon when the Apollo 11 team crashed into the lunar surface.
Doctored videos or deepfakes have been one of the key weapons used in propaganda battles for quite some time now. Donald Trump taunting Belgium for remaining in the Paris climate agreement, David Beckham speaking fluently in nine languages, Mao Zedong singing'I will survive' or Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in a pilot episode of Star Trek… all these videos have gone viral despite being fake, or because they were deepfakes. Last year, Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, said deepfakes are as potent as nuclear weapons in waging wars in a democracy. "In the old days, if you wanted to threaten the United States, you needed 10 aircraft carriers, and nuclear weapons, and long-range missiles. Today, you just need access to our Internet system, to our banking system, to our electrical grid and infrastructure, and increasingly, all you need is the ability to produce a very realistic fake video that could undermine our elections, that could throw our country into tremendous crisis internally and weaken us deeply," Forbes quoted him as saying.
None of these people exist. These images were generated using deepfake technology. Last month during ESPN's hit documentary series The Last Dance, State Farm debuted a TV commercial that has become one of the most widely discussed ads in recent memory. It appeared to show footage from 1998 of an ESPN analyst making shockingly accurate predictions about the year 2020. As it turned out, the clip was not genuine: it was generated using cutting-edge AI.
San Francisco (CNN)Deepfake videos are quickly becoming a problem, but there has been much debate about just how big the problem really is. One company is now trying to put a number on it. There are at least 14,678 deepfake videos -- and counting -- on the internet, according to a recent tally by a startup that builds technology to spot this kind of AI-manipulated content. And nearly all of them are porn. The number of deepfake videos is 84% higher than it was last December when Amsterdam-based Deeptrace found 7,964 deepfake videos during its first online count.
A perfect storm arising from the world of pornography may threaten the U.S. elections in 2020 with disruptive political scandals having nothing to do with actual affairs. Instead, face-swapping "deepfake" technology that first became popular on porn websites could eventually generate convincing fake videos of politicians saying or doing things that never happened in real life--a scenario that could sow widespread chaos if such videos are not flagged and debunked in time. The thankless task of debunking fake images and videos online has generally fallen upon news reporters, fact-checking websites and some sharp-eyed good Samaritans. But the more recent rise of AI-driven deepfakes that can turn Hollywood celebrities and politicians into digital puppets may require additional fact-checking help from AI-driven detection technologies. An Amsterdam-based startup called Deeptrace Labs aims to become one of the go-to shops for such deepfake detection technologies.