October 13, 2019

Deepfakes Aren't the Problem

“There sits Mark Zuckerberg, staring into a camera, proclaiming that the secret to controlling the future is controlling the stolen data of billions. A shocking declaration for the head of one of the world’s most important and powerful companies to make. The only problem? Realistic as the video appears, it’s fake — or, as these types of videos have come to be known, a deepfake.

The clip, shared on Instagram, came from the artists Bill Posters and Daniel Howe and was produced as part of an art exhibit called Spectre that recently premiered in the U.K. It did exactly what art should do: poked not only at Facebook’s power, but also at the company’s own moderation policies that state it will not take down footage that is fake. Recently, doctored footage of Nancy Pelosi, edited to make her seem slow and her speech slurred, was circulated on Facebook and the company refused to take it down, claiming that such content did not violate the company’s guidelines.

Deepfakes are held up as a terrifying example of the sinister power of technology. They are the result of sophisticated technology that allows creators to make it appear that someone is saying something they never did. Last year, there was a clip that purported to show Barack Obama but was in fact the voice of comedian and director Jordan Peele, synced to Obama’s face. Glanced at, it was pretty believable. Even just 18 months later, the technology has progressed at a frightening pace; now, you can simply type in what you want someone to say, and software can generate both believable video and audio of almost anyone saying almost anything.”

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