What ‘deepfakes’ are and how they may be dangerous

What are “deepfakes” and how dangerous?

What 'deepfakes' are and how they may be dangerous

“Deepfakes,” as they have become known, are new controversial tools for editing videos.

They work because of a flaw in how digital cameras work, with some digital devices able to capture motion in a way that removes or augments the human element of a person. The result is “deepfake” videos that look like real video shot by the person being portrayed.

The technique was first used in August by self-described “crystal person” Kathleen Scherer on Facebook Live. She edited a video of Kanye West at his Cincinnati concert in which he has pointed at the crowd. What was actually captured by the camera was a closeup of Scherer’s face.

A recent report from Quartz explained that “despite it’s novelty, deepfakes have caused an enormous amount of concern, from observers and the legal and tech communities.”

Members of the Turkish military reportedly spoke in a speech purported to be recorded during training drills in August that reportedly showed a member of the military insulting the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The only problem is the person claiming to be the member of the military was posing as a passerby in the background.

Russian scientists devised a new way to make a professional-quality actor’s face appear in a person’s body photo in a Facebook Live video, on Aug. 27. The Twitter and Facebook videos were edited to make a viewer think they were seeing the face of a high-profile figure.

People look at this woman in this photoshopped video and assume it is another woman, Hillary Clinton.

People look at this video and then look again, assuming the face is Donald Trump.

On the “high” end of the spectrum of made-up videos, California-based audio engineer Ian McFarland created an animated Darth Vader with someone’s voice in a video of a person drinking from a coffee cup.

The person in the video is his wife, Kathryn, who was playing the role of Darth Vader. The project was created with a common computer program called Visor, with help from a friend who took part.

Just as the very idea of deepfakes upset many members of the legal and technology communities, the project found online amusement.

In one post to Reddit, a group nicknamed “DeepFakes 3D” read: “Imagine going online to watch a video of a celebrity driving across a parking lot, and discovering a video of a completely different person driving through the parking lot. This could have a huge impact in how our popular culture communicates.”

Others, however, have pointed out the many dangers of making fake video that look as if it is being shot by the person being portrayed.

Abbas Hussein, a general counsel for News Corp, wrote in The Atlantic, “These works … are not intended to be used for long, but if he (or she) is not detained or tried, one can easily imagine the documents he/she had stolen being circulated anonymously, one leak after another.”

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