• Annex Team

The Ugly Truth Behind Deep Fakes

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

By: Jalyn Mayer, October 11, 2019

More than Human exhibition by Hiroshi Ishiguro is on display the Barbican's AI

The percentage of human intelligence is evolving at a rapid rate with AI, very little of that intelligence belongs to the human race. A funny video of Tom Hanks superimposed on Bill Hader’s face. A clip of Barack Obama stating “Kiillmonger was right." Ryan Reynolds subbed in for Willy Wonka.


These are deep fakes. A scary name for seemingly humorous, mindless internet content. However, deep fakes are not as innocent as they may seem.


How Did Deep Fakes Begin

Deep fakes use artificial technology to overlay faces onto others’ bodies. Typically, it is a celebrity face superimposed onto another celebrity’s body. The term was originated after Reddit user u/deepfakes shared many deep fakes he created. More deep fakes were posted by other Reddit users on the subreddit r/deepfakes, but the forum was banned in February 2018.


However, the development of deep fakes originally began in an academic setting.

In 1997, the Video Rewrite program was published which used machine learning to modify existing faces in video to mouth words they did not originally speak. This technology is still used today for dubbing movies and other special effects.


Why Deep Fakes are Dangerous

Today, anyone can make a deep fake, using readily available technology on the dark web. However, many amateur-created deep fakes are easy to spot. Obviously, this is not Nicolas Cage. But as the technology improves, the potential for realistic deep fakes is growing.

One example of this is a video that went viral in early 2019. It features House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) slurring her words and moving slowly, causing her to appear intoxicated.


Even Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, was fooled, tweeting out a link of the video with the caption, ““What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Her speech pattern is bizarre.” The tweet is now deleted.


Additionally, deep fake technology is being used to create nonconsensual porn. That is, sexually explicit content featuring individuals that did not grant permission for their likelihoods to be used in such a way. In fact, nearly 96% of all deep fakes distributed online are categorized as non consensual porn. Typically, these deep fakes feature famous women, particularly actresses and K-pop artists, but online programs like DeepNude are offering easy access to create non consensual porn of anyone.



What is Being Done about Deep Fakes?

New legislation was signed into law in California last week to prevent deep fakes being used to discredit political campaigns. While the new law, AB 730, does not explicitly mention the term “deep fake”, it does make it a crime to circulate sound or video that gives a false, harming impression of a government official's words or activities.

California governor Gavin Newsome also signed a bill into law that would ban nonconsensual porn made using deep fake technology.


However, these policies prove difficult to enforce. Political speech is highly protected under free speech, and many experts feel that these laws may lead to more confusion.

At this point, the state of deep fakes is still up in the air. With the technology to create deep fakes becoming more and more available to the public everyday, the legitimacy of video may be destroyed.

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