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'Deepfakes' Are Videos Designed to Trick You Into Thinking They're Real. But There's a Way to Detect Them

TIME - Tech

Deepfake videos are hard for untrained eyes to detect because they can be quite realistic. Whether used as personal weapons of revenge, to manipulate financial markets or to destabilize international relations, videos depicting people doing and saying things they never did or said are a fundamental threat to the longstanding idea that "seeing is believing." Most deepfakes are made by showing a computer algorithm many images of a person, and then having it use what it saw to generate new face images. At the same time, their voice is synthesized, so it both looks and sounds like the person has said something new. One of the most famous deepfakes sounds a warning.


Here's how algorithms can protect us against deepfakes

#artificialintelligence

Deepfake videos are hard for untrained eyes to detect because they can be quite realistic. Whether used as personal weapons of revenge, to manipulate financial markets or to destabilize international relations, videos depicting people doing and saying things they never did or said are a fundamental threat to the longstanding idea that "seeing is believing." Most deepfakes are made by showing a computer algorithm many images of a person, and then having it use what it saw to generate new face images. At the same time, their voice is synthesized, so it both looks and sounds like the person has said something new. Some of my research group's earlier work allowed us to detect deepfake videos that did not include a person's normal amount of eye blinking – but the latest generation of deepfakes has adapted, so our research has continued to advance.


Examining a video's changes over time helps flag deepfakes

#artificialintelligence

It used to be that only Hollywood production companies with deep pockets and teams of skilled artists and technicians could make deepfake videos, realistic fabrications appearing to show people doing and saying things they never actually did or said. Not anymore -- software freely available online lets anyone with a computer and some time on their hands create convincing fake videos. Whether used for personal revenge, to harass celebrities or to influence public opinion, deepfakes render untrue the age-old axiom that "seeing is believing." My research team and I at the University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute are developing ways to tell the difference between realistic-looking fakes and genuine videos that show actual events as they happened. Our recent research has found a new and apparently more accurate way to detect deepfake videos.


What Is a Deepfake?

#artificialintelligence

In the opening session of his 2020 introductory course on deep learning, Alexander Amini, a PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), invited a famous guest: former US President Barack Obama. "Deep learning is revolutionizing so many fields, from robotics to medicine and everything in between," said Obama, who joined the class by video conference. After speaking a bit more on the virtues of artificial intelligence, Obama made an important revelation: "In fact, this entire speech and video are not real and were created using deep learning and artificial intelligence." Amini's Obama video was, in fact, a deepfake--an AI-doctored video in which the facial movements of an actor are transferred to that of a target. Since first appearing in 2018, deepfake technology has evolved from hobbyist experimentation to an effective and dangerous tool.


Detecting 'deepfake' videos in the blink of an eye

#artificialintelligence

A new form of misinformation is poised to spread through online communities as the 2018 midterm election campaigns heat up. Called "deepfakes" after the pseudonymous online account that popularized the technique – which may have chosen its name because the process uses a technical method called "deep learning" – these fake videos look very realistic. So far, people have used deepfake videos in pornography and satire to make it appear that famous people are doing things they wouldn't normally. But it's almost certain deepfakes will appear during the campaign season, purporting to depict candidates saying things or going places the real candidate wouldn't. Because these techniques are so new, people are having trouble telling the difference between real videos and the deepfake videos.