The sinister rise of ‘deepfake’ videos

Faking it: Deepfakes use Artificial Intelligence to manipulate famous faces.

Are “deepfakes” a threat to democracy? In an online video, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg lays out his plan for world domination. However, it is not really him. The video is a fake.

What’s happening

“Imagine this […] one man with total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures.”

Mark Zuckerberg stares into the camera. Look closely, however, and something does not seem right. His face looks strange. His voice is wrong. The video is a fake.

Find out more

In fact, the video is a “deepfake”. This means that it was created by an artificial intelligence (AI) programme.

Once the AI learned what Zuckerberg looked like, it was able to produce a new video of him saying things he had never said.

The video was created by two artists as part of a project called Spectre. They want to highlight the dangers of deepfakes.

Facebook said it would not remove the video.

For Spectre, that is exactly the problem. If social media sites do not remove deepfakes, how can we trust what we see online? Some say this is a threat to democracy. Are they right?

Some say…

Yes. Politicians will be able to create fake videos of their rivals in order to discredit them. Democracy is based on the idea that we all share an understanding of the facts, but disagree over what to do about them. Deepfakes put that at risk.

Others think…

Fake news is nothing new, and neither are doctored videos. Most people already know that they should be careful about the things they see online. The threat of deepfakes might even make people more critical. We should not be too worried.

You Decide

  1. Have you ever been tricked by fake news you saw online?

Activities

  1. Could there be any benefits to deepfakes? As a class, list all of the ways — good and bad — that the technology could be used.

Some People Say...

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

What do you think?

Word Watch

Mark Zuckerberg
The founder of the social media site Facebook, which is used by 2.4 billion people.
Artificial intelligence
Computer programmes designed to think.
Highlight
To draw attention to something.
Social media
Websites that allow users to connect and share content with each other.
Democracy
A system of government where people vote for their leaders.
Discredit
To hurt the reputation of someone or something.
Doctored
To change or tamper with something.
Critical
Think objectively.

Subjects

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