If you use a computer or a mobile device, you have probably watched your fair share of videos online. The popularity of video has increased dramatically in the past decade, with more videos available than ever on every conceivable topic. As video has become so ubiquitous, it has remained a source of information that most people consider relatively reliable. But new technology known as deepfakes threatens to shatter that reliability. Deepfakes can put someone’s face on another person’s body in a video and the fake can be very hard to spot—which makes it possible to create videos where people look like they are doing or saying things that have not and likely never would.
In our personal lives and in the political sphere, deepfakes present a huge problem that no one is quite sure how to fix.
Deepfakes—Areas of Concern
The notion of having someone put your face on another person’s body or have your face say things you didn’t is disturbing for just about everyone. But while it is alarming that someone could do something like that to you or someone you care about, currently the biggest concerns have been for those in the spotlight—namely celebrities and politicians.
Celebrities and Deepfakes
When reports were released recently about deepfakes, the area of focus was celebrities and pornography. Pornography has been a driving force of the internet for a long time. However, the risks to celebrities were relatively minor. If they had some personal videos leaked, then those videos were likely to get into the hands of the public. But such leaks happened rarely.
With deepfakes, everything has changed. Programs have been developed to automatically put faces of celebrities—really, anyone, but celebrities were the main targets—onto the body of pornographic actors. The results were disturbingly real for those that viewed them, enough that multiple news articles were written about the problem.
Under normal circumstances, someone would have to consent to have themselves placed in a pornographic movie. But with these deepfakes, there was no authorization given, and there does not have to be in the future. And it is not only famous people who are going to be victimized by such technology. Angry exes and others can take advantage of such tech to hurt those that they are upset with in ways that may last a lifetime.
Deepfakes and pornography is an upsetting combination that no one would want to be victimized by. However, there is one area where deepfakes pose even more danger to the public—politics. The fear is that the faces of politicians or potential politicians can be put on the bodies of others and also can be made to say things that they did not actually say. If there was a candidate that would be good for the public, but the competition did not want the person to be elected, then that competition could create a deepfake to discredit the individual. While it has not happened thus far, at least that has been reported on, it certainly can happen in the future.
What are the Solutions for Deepfakes?
No one is certain how to effectively combat deepfakes, but there are a few ideas already floating around. The first is to put watermarks on videos from reliable sources. If a news agency produces a video it can put a watermark to prove that it made the video. The other potential solution is for social media companies to screen for deepfakes and remove them as soon as they show up on their platforms.
Whether either or both of these solutions will be enough remains to be seen. All that is certain is deepfakes are out there and are likely to become more prevalent over time.