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.
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.
Lying has never looked so good, literally. Concern over increasingly sophisticated technology able to create convincingly faked videos and audio, so-called'deepfakes', is rising around the world. But at the same time they're being developed, technologists are also fighting back against the falsehoods. "The concern is that there will be a growing movement globally to undermine the quality of the information sphere and undermine the quality of discourse necessary in a democracy," Eileen Donahoe, a member of the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity, told CNBC in December 2018. She said deepfakes are potentially the next generation of disinformation.
You might not be aware of it, but there's a quiet arms race going on over our collective reality. The fight is between those who want to subvert it and usher in a world where we no longer believe what we see on our screens and those who want to help preserve the status quo. Up until this point in time, we have largely trusted our eyes and ears when consuming audio and visual media content, but new technological systems that create something known as deepfakes, are changing that. And as these deepfake videos nudge into the mainstream, experts are increasingly worried about the ramifications it will have on the information sharing that underpins society. Dr Richard Nock is the head of machine learning at CSIRO's Data 61 and understands the daunting potential of the technology that powers deepfake videos.
Have you seen Barack Obama call Donald Trump a "complete dipshit", or Mark Zuckerberg brag about having "total control of billions of people's stolen data", or witnessed Jon Snow's moving apology for the dismal ending to Game of Thrones? Answer yes and you've seen a deepfake. The 21st century's answer to Photoshopping, deepfakes use a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning to make images of fake events, hence the name deepfake. Want to put new words in a politician's mouth, star in your favourite movie, or dance like a pro? Then it's time to make a deepfake.