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.
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.
About a year ago, top deepfake artist Hao Li came to a disturbing realization: Deepfakes, i.e. the technique of human-image synthesis based on artificial intelligence (AI) to create fake content, is rapidly evolving. In fact, Li believes that in as soon as six months, deepfake videos will be completely undetectable. And that's spurring security and privacy concerns as the AI behind the technology becomes commercialized – and gets in the hands of malicious actors. Li, for his part, has seen the positives of the technology as a pioneering computer graphics and vision researcher, particularly for entertainment. He has worked his magic on various high-profile deepfake applications – from leading the charge in putting Paul Walker into Furious 7 after the actor died before the film finished production, to creating the facial-animation technology that Apple now uses in its Animoji feature in the iPhone X.
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.
"Do you want to see yourself acting in a movie or on TV?" said the description for one app on online stores, offering users the chance to create AI-generated synthetic media, also known as deepfakes. "Do you want to see your best friend, colleague, or boss dancing?" it added. "Have you ever wondered how would you look if your face swapped with your friend's or a celebrity's?" The same app was advertised differently on dozens of adult sites: "Make deepfake porn in a sec," the ads said. How increasingly sophisticated technology is applied is one of the complexities facing synthetic media software, where machine learning is used to digitally model faces from images and then swap them into films as seamlessly as possible.