“Deepfakes” are the latest creepy fad for basement-dwelling porn addicts. These videos are made using a deep-learning algorithm that replaces the face of someone in a video with the face of someone else. This isn’t sinister in itself, but the person who created the software did it with the explicit intention of putting celebrity faces onto pornography.
Since launching an easy-to-use desktop app, the Internet has been flooded with these fakes. The problem has become so big that Twitter, Pornhub, and Reddit have already taken steps to ban them.
There are applications for the tech that are not so despicable. For instance, if an actor were to die during filming they could convincingly be replaced with more advanced versions of the software. Or if they’re still living, they could license out their own image for use without needing to go to the trouble of acting. However, the damage the tech could do is not to be underestimated.
Now Senators and an expert working on exposing digital fakes are warning about another malevolent use for the tech – using it to influence politics.
Similar tech, developed by Niessnerlab prior to deep fakes, has been used to create videos of US presidents and famous people moving their faces to mimic those of actors, to eerie effect. Actors have their expressions captured, and this data is used to alter the expression of celebrities in the video in real-time.
Which is awesome, but Virginia Senator Mark Warner has some concerns.
“The idea that someone could put another person’s face on an individual’s body, that would be like a home run for anyone who wants to interfere in a political process,” he told CBS.
The senator worries the technology could soon be good enough to fool voters and interfere with democracy.
“This is now going to be the new reality, surely by 2020, but potentially as early as this year.”
There are already some pretty convincing fakes that have sprung up on Reddit. Though people mainly use the tech to insert Nic Cage into every film that’s ever been released, they have created some creepy fake videos of politicians.
This fake of Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of Donald Trump recently went viral on YouTube because of how strangely similar it was. It was made by someone with software you could get your hands on today if you’d like.
Computer scientist Hany Farid also told CBS that he worried this technology could be combined with other audio tech to produce extremely convincing fakes, enough to fool the average person.
Adobe are working on an audio product that can produce realistic human voices, with intonation and expression, based on previous recordings and text input from the user.
“I mean, that is just terrifying,” Farid told CBS. “Now I can create the president of the United States saying just about anything.”
The era of fake news could be about to get even weirder.