Welcome To Our Deepfake Future

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As someone with hours of my face and voice out in public, the rapid rise of ‘deep fakes’ is something that, whilst not exactly keeping me awake at night, is something that I’m watching with a little bit of concern, writes Topher Field.

Photoshop has been used plenty of times to sabotage people’s careers in various fields, and in a few cases to fake evidence in court as well! 

For now Deepfakes for the most part are labelled as such, as ‘fake’, the creators are doing it for satire, entertainment, or to make a point, but are at least honest enough to label it what it is: Fake.

But some people try to pass fakes off as real, and it’s only a matter of time before someone attempts a full on character assassination in public, using completely fake video and audio to do it.

Fast forward 10 or 15 years and we’ll all be familiar with the concept of deepfakes and people will treat what they see and hear with continuous skepticism, however there’s a window open now, which will last for another 10 or so years, where deepfakes will be so far ahead of people’s awareness that there’s a very real opportunity to destroy someone using completely computer generated evidence.

You could now generate a ‘security’ video of a semi naked man abusing a minor, using little more than a few photos of that man on holiday at the beach, and a few minutes of them talking on a Facebook Live video. And the fake will be complete with birthmarks or scars or tattoos and other identifying features.

You could fabricate video of a high profile politician with a prostitute, using their own campaign videos and fake ‘naked’ software which generates a naked body based on photos of a person clothed. Sure, in that case it won’t have any specific identifying features, but if the fake is a ‘blurry video in the dark’ then you won’t need them, the damage will be done.

And the other range of possibilities to assassinate characters and destroy lives is limited only by the imaginations of those willing to stoop to such lows.

Racist slurs? Easy, it’s probably already been done.

Nazi sympathiser? C’mon, gimme a challenge!

Blackmail material? Easy as pie. The person you’re blackmailing will know they’re fake, but they may also know that not everyone will believe them.

So what’s the solution? Well this video does a pretty good job of discussing it and makes the point that there’s no easy solution.

In my opinion such fakes are not illegal until they are passed off as real. Faking someone saying something for the purposes of satire, or to make a point about their views etc is not itself illegal, you just have to present it for what it is: Your views ABOUT their views.

This is what protects cartoonists who put damning words in the mouths of their subjects all the time. It’s not presented as a quote, it’s presented as commentary, opinion, or satire, and everyone knows that.

It’s the moment it’s presented as being in any way real that it’s an issue.

I suspect that all of this can be dealt with under existing slander and libel laws, but I’m no expert and am open to being convinced otherwise.

In the meantime, don’t believe everything you see and hear… even if you hear it ‘from the horses mouth’. There’s going to be some very interesting court cases arising out of this in the next few years…