In case you haven’t see one yet, you can find a great example of a “deepfake” video in one of our past postings. While the example I use of Bill Hader impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger is humorously entertaining, the context makes the manipulation much easier to spot than in this video of Mark Zuckerberg, which was completely faked to make a point about Facebook’s lackadaisical policy towards policing misinformation. Despite this highly publicized broadside, it took Facebook six months to change their policy on allowing this type of content on the world’s biggest media platform, and even then the policy has loopholes that allow many fake videos to continue to thrive, especially content posted by politicians, who are given a pass on Facebook’s fact-checking guidelines.
What’s a regular person to do?
While it’s clear that waiting for Facebook to do something is not going to resolve this problem, other major players are taking steps. Twitter has finally found some courage and has been policing demonstrably fake and harmful content, and now Microsoft is developing two platforms that can arm consumers with more ways to spot fake content. Microsoft’s “Video Authenticator” was announced Sept 1, 2020 as a way to detect manipulated videos, particularly deepfakes, by using technology to spot edits that would normally be undetectable to human eyes. Realizing that they will always be chasing improvements to deepfake technology, Microsoft has also announced its participation in an initiative called “Project Origins“, founded by the BBC. Project Origins aims to provide digital content with authenticity watermarks (among many other things) to hopefully curtail the harmful spread of misinformation through unapproved appropriation of legitimate news content.
Unfortunately, the use of these tools actually requires active and willing participation from the general public – if one doesn’t know they are being manipulated or think to question the source of their information, the previously mentioned platforms are not helpful. This is where the concept of “media literacy” is becoming increasingly crucial to navigating the flood of information we receive daily. Microsoft has created an interactive quiz at www.spotdeepfakes.org in partnership with the University of Washington, USA Today, and Sensity as just one way of increasing awareness about this growing threat. The only way we can combat the tide of misinformation is to encourage everyone around you to think critically and to reasonably question information sources, especially during the upcoming election season.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net