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.
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.
In a computer science lab in Dublin City University (DCU) students are busy at work. Take a closer look and you will realise they are creating deepfakes. This is not a secret project and they're not afraid of getting caught by their lecturer because it is, in fact, a course assignment. Deepfakes of comedian Bill Hader morphing into Tom Cruise and Al Pacino or'Mark Zuckerberg' boasting about how Facebook owns its users, demonstrate how easy it is to use machine learning techniques to create realistic fake footage of people doing and saying things they never have. The technology is getting better and telling deepfakes from genuine footage is becoming increasingly difficult.
"We are already at the point where you can't tell the difference between deepfakes and the real thing," Professor Hao Li of the University of Southern California tells the BBC. We are at the computer scientist's deepfake installation at the World Economic Forum in Davos which gives a hint of what he means. Like other deepfake tools, his software creates computer-manipulated videos of people - often politicians or celebrities - that are designed to look real. Most often this involves "face swapping", whereby the face of a celebrity is overlaid onto the likeness of someone else. As I sit, a camera films my face and projects it onto a screen in front of me; my features are then digitally mapped.
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.