New technology makes it alarmingly easy to make realistic videos of people saying and doing things they’ve never done. Here’s everything you need to know:

What is this technology?
It’s a sophisticated type of software that makes it possible to superimpose one person’s face onto another’s body and manipulate voice recordings, creating fake videos that look and sound real. Hollywood studios have long used computer-generated imagery (CGI) to, say, create fleeting appearances of dead actors. But the process used to be prohibitively expensive and laborious. Today, the technology has improved so much that highly realistic visual and audio fakery can be produced by anyone with a powerful home computer. This has already resulted in a cottage industry of fake celebrity porn. But fears are growing over how else “deepfake” videos could be used — from smearing politicians in elections to inciting major international conflict. Earlier this year, BuzzFeed created a “public service announcement” warning of the technology’s dangers, with a deepfake of former President Barack Obama voiced by the comedian and director Jordan Peele. “We’re entering an era,” the fake Obama says, “in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything.” To illustrate the point, the fake Obama goes on to call President Trump “a total and complete dips—.”

Where did deepfakes originate?
In porn, of course. Last December, an anonymous Reddit user who calls himself “deepfakes” started posting fake but realistic-looking videos of celebrities engaged in explicit sex. By January, the “deepfake” technology had been shared through a free app, FakeApp, which has since been downloaded more than 120,000 times. FakeApp and its imitators sparked an explosion of fake pornography online, with Michelle Obama, Ivanka Trump, and Emma Watson among those most frequently victimized. But it’s not all porn. The technology has also been used to create harmless spoof and parody videos — inserting Reddit cult figure Nicolas Cage into films in which he didn’t appear, for example.

How do deepfakes work?
The creator gathers a trove of photos or videos of the target — so it helps if it’s a famous person — along with the video to be doctored. The video maker then feeds the data into the app, which uses a form of artificial intelligence (AI) known as “deep learning” — hence deepfake — to combine the face in the source images with the chosen video. This process requires a sizable graphics processing unit and …read more

Source:: The Week – Tech


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Rise of the deepfakes

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