People are used to being skeptical of images spread around social media. An easy Google search can reveal the original photo alongside the “photoshopped” one. But the day has arrived that videos may no longer be trusted as true depictions of reality.
“Deepfake” videos are here. A deepfake video is one that has taken footage of a real person, usually talking to the camera, and replaced their words and facial or even body movements with someone else’s, with convincing results.
Film director Jordan Peele lent his Barack Obama impression to a team who made a deepfake video of the former president for the sake of education and entertainment. Played side-by-side with the derivative clip, it can be difficult to spot the fake. The image probably won’t pass muster played on a large high-resolution screen, but could be convincing on a smartphone or tablet.
This technology isn’t new. Do you remember the scene from “Forrest Gump” when Gump met President Kennedy and “had to pee” because he drank too many sodas? Several historical figures were faked into that movie to achieve a comedic affect. Today, those Hollywood caliber scenes are less convincing than the deepfakes possible today.
Your phone can already morph your face or swap it with someone else’s almost instantly. If putting dog ears on someone isn’t bad enough, deepfakes already have darker applications. Actors’ faces have been used on existing pornographic videos.
Other concerns are that deepfakes could disrupt the criminal justice system. Sometimes videos are used as evidence in court cases. The Times witnessed,
in court, attorney Frank Manley using police footage of murder suspect Abdu Akl in the police cruiser saying things that suggests his possible guilt.
Judge Mark McCabe of the Genesee County 67th District Court said videos of the outside of a house or business are sometimes used or cell phone videos for non-jury trials. He said deepfake videos are potentially “of great concern.”
He said coming across a deepfake is possible. “Attorneys and judges have to be aware of what the possibilities are,” McCabe said. “As technology advances, the odds of having a deepfake presented (as evidence) certainly increase in likelihood.”
The good news is that any attorney, according to McCabe, would not want to knowingly submit a deepfake video into evidence. For one, it would be cause for a retrial and severe professional repercussions. “It’s certainly a troubling situation,” McCabe said.
He said there are already measures in place to protect evidence being used in court. The judge is the gatekeeper.
How are they made?
These deepfake videos are made by using existing footage of a person, for example Barack Obama, and images of the actor, Jordan Peele. An artificial intelligence (AI) program handles synthesizing Obama’s face to create the deepfake video.
This topic is already being studied by both the Pentagon and several universities, according to CNN.com.
How to spot a deep fake video
This isn’t an exact science, but the most consistent sign seems to be a subtle blurriness around the mouth and chin, as the computer builds an image and moves pixels around to make the fake image move.
Spotting the difference might just be realizing something looks a little “off.”