Have you seen the video of former US President Barack Obama calling his successor Donald Trump a “total and complete dipshit”? How about the clip showing John Krasinski as Captain America? Or the one with Mark Zuckerberg claiming he has total control of the lives and secrets of people? These videos are examples of products made with deepfake technology.
What are deepfakes?
Deepfakes are synthetic media. It is the creation of objectively false yet believable content based on data manipulated through artificial intelligence and other types of automation. Deepfake has several applications, but it’s mostly used for malicious intent.
Every well-meaning usage of synthetic media in entertainment, education, and accessibility seems small in comparison to the numerous cases of abuse by bad actors involved in misinformation, carnal pleasures, and theft. While doctored videos are its common form, deepfake also includes audio alterations that allow an impostor to mimic the voice of another person, such as a politician, celebrity, or other public figures.
With the proliferation of deepfakes, don’t readily believe anything you see or hear on the Internet. Learn to identify if the content you’re consuming is genuine. When deepfakes are involved, here are some helpful tips.
Look for unnatural movements and quirky appearance
The artificial intelligence behind deepfake videos isn’t perfect yet (though AI in general is getting close), which is why if you observe a deepfake closely enough you will have some sort of uncanny valley feeling. Even though the person in the video may be lifelike, you are somehow ill at ease and believe something seems off.
Start with the face—how the eye blinks, where the eyes are looking, how the lips move in sync with the voice, and whenever smiles, frowns, and other expressions are done. Do they look weird, random, or erratic? Similarly, notice any body movements that seem jerky or happen without cue. Check if the body has an unusual posture or fails to naturally align with the head. Check the angle of the shadow and the shape and flow of the hair.
In short, look for any erratic movement and unnatural appearance. Also, be wary of low-quality media. A person who tampers a video or photo may use blurring, pixelating, and other manipulation effects to hide their edits.
Look for proof that the content is original and has not been tampered
So that falsified content doesn’t fool you, always verify if the video or image is authentic. In the digital world, you can prove a media file (or any file really) is free of any tampering by comparing hash values, which are essentially digital signatures that are unique to each file.
For example, the Linux distribution Ubuntu makes use of hashes to help you verify if your installer is neither corrupt nor tampered with. If your installer copy came from an unknown source, you simply generate a hash value for that copy and see if it matches with the attached signatures for Ubuntu releases. Matching values mean you have a genuine copy.
Other digital fingerprinting techniques and information that can be used to distinguish original videos from deepfakes include video hashing, image metadata, and digital watermarking. You can also try a reverse image search to see if the photo in your possession is based on another image.
Practice spotting fakes
As the tech and AI behind deepfakes improve, spotting fakes will become harder. You can stay ahead by regularly training yourself to spot fabrications and manipulations. There are even test and quiz websites to help you with this.
For example, the MIT research project Detect Fakes presents a total of 32 texts, photos, and videos, only half of which are certified to be real. See if you can spot the real ones from the fake. Another interactive website you can try is SpotDeepfakes.org.
Use tools to help you
Fight technology with technology. As an end-user, take advantage of tools you can use to be familiar with deepfakes and deceptions:
- Get a browser extension that rates the trustworthiness of websites and search engine results. Popular choices are NewsGuard, McAfee WebAdvisor, and Avast Online Security & Privacy. Deepfakes are likely found in websites deemed dangerous and risky.
- A very convincing deepfake will likely become viral and attract the attention of fact-checking websites such as Snopes.com and FactCheck.org. These websites will help you debunk any false content. In the Philippines, the website Rappler regularly fact-checks information that goes viral on social media.
- Learn how to create deepfake content yourself. Legitimate companies provide deepfake creation and media manipulation tools for non-malicious purpose. Adobe, for instance, is developing Project In-Between that makes photos come alive. There are even several free smartphone apps for face swapping, a common deepfake method.