Collaborating Authors

Tackling the misinformation epidemic with "In Event of Moon Disaster"


Can you recognize a digitally manipulated video when you see one? It's harder than most people realize. As the technology to produce realistic "deepfakes" becomes more easily available, distinguishing fact from fiction will only get more challenging. A new digital storytelling project from MIT's Center for Advanced Virtuality aims to educate the public about the world of deepfakes with "In Event of Moon Disaster." This provocative website showcases a "complete" deepfake (manipulated audio and video) of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon delivering the real contingency speech written in 1969 for a scenario in which the Apollo 11 crew were unable to return from the moon.

How Do We Know What's Real in the Era of the Deepfake?


Through an overwhelming smorgasbord of archival footage, viral videos, documentary excerpts, and one immersive work, curators Barbara Miller and Joshua Glick posit that the antidote to misinformation is context. The show guides visitors through substantial evidence with which they can think more critically about what informs their beliefs. The entry room alone contains nine flickering artifacts in a chronology of "deepfakes," while a parallel hallway is lined with contemporary examples. A deepfake is a video in which real footage has been convincingly manipulated, sometimes with insidious ideological aims. John Lennon can advertise a podcast.

The year deepfakes went mainstream

MIT Technology Review

In 2018, Sam Cole, a reporter at Motherboard, discovered a new and disturbing corner of the internet. A Reddit user by the name of "deepfakes" was posting nonconsensual fake porn videos using an AI algorithm to swap celebrities' faces into real porn. Cole sounded the alarm on the phenomenon, right as the technology was about to explode. A year later, deepfake porn had spread far beyond Reddit, with easily accessible apps that could "strip" clothes off any woman photographed. Since then deepfakes have had a bad rap, and rightly so.

Inside the strange new world of being a deepfake actor

MIT Technology Review

While deepfakes have now been around for a number of years, deepfake casting and acting are relatively new. Early deepfake technologies weren't very good, used primarily in dark corners of the internet to swap celebrities into porn videos without their consent. But as deepfakes have grown increasingly realistic, more and more artists and filmmakers have begun using them in broadcast-quality productions and TV ads. This means hiring real actors for one aspect of the performance or another. Some jobs require an actor to provide "base" footage; others need a voice.

Creepy Apollo 11 Nixon deepfake video created by MIT to show dangers of high-tech misinformation

FOX News

Fox News Flash top headlines are here. Check out what's clicking on Scientists at MIT have digitally manipulated video and audio to create a creepy deepfake of President Nixon "delivering" a speech that would have been used in the event of an Apollo 11 disaster. Written in 1969, the contingency speech was to be used if NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were unable to return from the moon. The video is part of a project entitled "In Event of Moon Disaster" that aims to highlight the dangers of deepfakes, which use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to create false, but realistic-looking clips.