EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Deepfakes are challenging the tech world to come up with ways to discern truth from fiction. Why is the proliferation of deepfakes a worrisome trend?

With photos and videos becoming a primary source of information in our digitally transforming world, the fact that people can produce media products showing anyone saying or doing anything poses a serious challenge to social and political burdens of proof.

Since no single tool exists to immediately verify media, the possibility of deepfakes causes uncertainty where people rely on the truth. In 2018, following his lack of public appearances, rumors of Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s death or severe illness were exacerbated by the release of a suspicious video footage of a completely healthy Ondimba, designed to assuage public worries. While subsequent analysis proved that the video was real, deep public suspicion caused instability to flourish and resulted in the military carrying out an unsuccessful coup.

Major tech companies are working on tools to detect deepfakes. By using databases to train detection algorithms and working to implement digital watermarks on files, tech companies hope to develop a clear solution to discern whether a piece of media is indeed fact or fiction.

To see past CyberTalk coverage of deepfakes, click here. To read about the coming challenges of deepfakes and possible solutions, check out this MIT Technology Review article.