You may have seen them popping up in news stories recently involving famous politicians, celebrities, and even tech executives. If so, then you8217;re probably wondering how they8217;re made and by whom and whether they8217;ll make the fake news epidemic even worse. We understand your concern.
As if it were from a sci-fi movie, deepfake technology involves artificial intelligence and machine learning models that can manipulate video. In its simplest form, a deepfake is a doctored video that shows someone doing or saying something that never happened. This ability isn8217;t limited to Hollywood or intelligence agencies; anyone can use online software or download apps that8217;ll let them make convincing deepfake videos.
One of the most popular targets for deepfakes is Donald Trump. That8217;s partly because there8217;s a treasure trove of data on him 8211; thousands of audio clips, videos, and photos of him speaking and gesturing in the same way. Anyone who with access to deepfake software can use this data to create hyper-realistic videos of him doing or saying anything. They can even morph his face onto another subject, such as Richard Nixon.
There are several different ways to make deepfake videos, but they all require data to feed machine learning models that will generate your fake content. Currently, everyone from researchers to those with malicious intent are making deepfakes. The most convincing ones require powerful computer rigs and deep datasets with plenty of audio, video, or pictures for the subject of your deepfake.
Social media apps like Snapchat also use face-morphing technology that could be used similarly. There8217;s even higher-end tools like FakeApp. Made by an anonymous developer using open-source software written by Google, it lets you realistically generate face swaps, with little indication that your video has been manipulated. FakeApp is free, and if you8217;re a little geeky, it8217;s relatively easy to use.
There are tonnes of high-quality deepfakes online 8211; even ones with celebrities8217; faces and voices swapped into adult films. More family-friendly examples, however, are below. Just do a quick search on YouTube if you want to see more.
The video below starts like dozens of others on YouTube: We see former Saturday Night Live star Bill Hader doing his best celebrity impression of former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. About 10 seconds into the video, Hader’s face morph8217;s into Schwarzenegger’s face. This example, which has over six million views, has become one of YouTube’s most watched deepfake videos.
Another example comes from researchers at Samsung AI Center, who developed deepfake technology that can make classic photos and works of art come to life. In their video, we can see Albert Einstein and the Mona Lisa moving and speaking. To create the Mona Lisa composite, specifically, they used three source videos, each of which produced different and sometimes odd results.
A more recent example shows Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledging his allegiance to Spectre, the evil organization from the James Bond franchise. This particular deepfake manipulates the audio to make Zuckerberg sound like a psychopath. The artists behind this deepfake, Bill Posters and Daniel Howe, in partnership with advertising company Canny, also made a deepfake with Kim Kardashian West.
Although most deepfakes are funny and innocent, they do have the potential to be nefarious. For instance, a deepfake video could show a political candidate saying or doing something horrible 8211; perhaps something so unforgivable that, if time correctly, it could sway the results of an election before there8217;s time for the public to learn the truth. Anyone could be superimposed into a compromising situation.
There8217;s already celebrities who don8217;t want their likeness appearing in deepfake pornography. Some have likened this situation to revenge porn. After all, a deepfake creator only needs a series of photos of the victim, which can be quickly culled from social media feeds, or audio and video of the victim, plus access to deepfake software, which you now know is readily available.
Spend a minute searching the web, and you8217;ll be knee-deep in tutorials that8217;ll teach you how to become a deepfake creator. With that sort of accessibility, deepfake technology will only become more widespread, and it8217;ll undoubtedly be used for bullying and harassment. Regulators and lawmakers are just beginning to grapple with this problem. There is no legislation in the US against deepfakes.