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.
Artificial intelligence is fueling the next phase of misinformation. The new type of synthetic media known as deepfakes poses major challenges for newsrooms when it comes to verification. This content is indeed difficult to track: Can you tell which of the images below is a fake? We at The Wall Street Journal are taking this threat seriously and have launched an internal deepfakes task force led by the Ethics & Standards and the Research & Development teams. This group, the WSJ Media Forensics Committee, is comprised of video, photo, visuals, research, platform, and news editors who have been trained in deepfake detection.
WASHINGTON - If you see a video of a politician speaking words he never would utter, or a Hollywood star improbably appearing in a cheap adult movie, don't adjust your television set -- you may just be witnessing the future of "fake news." "Deepfake" videos that manipulate reality are becoming more sophisticated due to advances in artificial intelligence, creating the potential for new kinds of misinformation with devastating consequences. As the technology advances, worries are growing about how deepfakes can be used for nefarious purposes by hackers or state actors. "We're not quite to the stage where we are seeing deepfakes weaponized, but that moment is coming," said Robert Chesney, a University of Texas law professor who has researched the topic. Chesney argues that deepfakes could add to the current turmoil over disinformation and influence operations.
Deepfakes are video manipulations that can make people say seemingly strange things. Barack Obama and Nicolas Cage have been featured in these videos. "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" has long been a staple on nursery room shelves for a reason: It teaches kids that joking too much about a possible threat may turn people ignorant when the threat becomes an actual danger. President Donald Trump has been warning about "fake news" throughout his entire political career. And now the real wolf might be just around the corner.
This fall, Gabon was facing an odd and tenuous political situation. President Ali Bongo had been out of the country since October receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia and London and had not been seen in public. People in Gabon and observers outside the country were growing suspicious about the president's well being, and the government's lack of answers only fueled doubts; some even said he was dead. After months of little information, on December 9th, the country's vice president announced that Bongo had suffered a stroke in the autumn, but remained in good shape. Despite such assurances, civil society groups and many members of the public wondered why Bongo, if he was well, had not made any public appearances, save for a few pictures of him released by the government along with a silent video.