Sometimes, it is hard to understand how human beings ever survived without the internet. This is because the internet is simply a wonderful invention. You can earn a decent living online. You can send emails, watch TV, listen to news and generally carry out most of your activities on the internet. With all these advantages, the internet is definitely a credible source of information. Unfortunately, it is possible to manipulate the internet and some people are doing just that.
Putting Words in Your Mouth
Now, let us assume you log in to your Facebook account and you see a Facebook presentation by one of the executives of the company. There is nothing unusual about this but midway into the presentation, something bizarre happens. The speaker admits that he is responsible for hacking into the accounts of Facebook users. He also confesses he is the brain behind many cases of identity theft and online fraud. Before you jump to any rash conclusions, you should know that what you have witnessed is a classic example of fake videos called “deepfakes”. The person speaking is not a Facebook executive. People who have no connection at all to Facebook doctored the videos. This is a disturbing trend and it is just one example of how some people can misuse and manipulate the internet.
The “Deepfakes” Principle As Creepy New Internet Trend
In case you are wondering how videos can be manipulated, the technology behind this is almost the same as the one used by people who use Photoshop to manipulate pictures. In this case, the principle is modified so that it works with moving pictures. Photoshop manipulation is bad enough but manipulating digital videos is a very serious matter. When you manipulate static images, observant people can easily spot the manipulation. Besides, there is a limit to what manipulated images can achieve or depict. On the other hand, manipulated movies can look very authentic and this is dangerous for a number of reasons.
Damage to Your Reputation Because of Creepy New Internet Trend
The problem with doctored videos is that these things have a lot of staying power. Somebody posts a “deepfake” that portrays you in bad light. Now, even after investigations have shown that he video in question is fake, the damage to your reputation is not so easy to repair. For instance, in May 2019, a spoof video of Nancy Pelosi appeared online. Nancy Pelosi is the US Speaker of the House so she carries a lot of political weight. In this video, she is shown slurring her words at a press conference.
In this case, the video is real and the press conference actually took place. However, it is a fake video in the sense that the Hon. Nancy Pelosi was not slurring her words at the said press conference. The fake video guru (if you will this excuse the expression) simply slowed down the actual clip. As a result, Ms. Pelosi was depicted in the spoof video slurring her words and looking like someone who had taken one drink too many. This video spread far and wide and it was even shared on the verified Twitter account of Mr. Donald Trump (no less). The post on Trump’s Twitter account was retweeted over 30,000 times and many people believed the video was real.
Legal and Political Implications
Deepfakes have serious political implications. In an election year, fake videos can be used to discredit political opponents and this will give an unfair advantage to rival politicians. Again, deepfakes have serious legal implications. Criminals can doctor videos and use these manipulated videos as evidence to hoodwink the legal system. A more serious implication is that video evidence may become inadmissible in court if the judges and prosecutors fear the videos have been manipulated.
Fighting Fire with Fire
The only way to combat the menace of deepfakes is for technology companies to create software that will identify and flag deepfakes. It will also help if certain organizations blacklist deepfake apps so that potential users do not get access to the programs.
Protecting Yourself From Creepy New Internet Trend
One way to protect yourself is to be a conservative internet user. Avoid downloading apps and programs you do not need. For instance, the photo-transformation program called FaceApp is one app you should hesitate to use. Download this app and you can use it to change your hairstyle, gender and looks. You can even use the age simulator to look like an older version of your current self instantly.
Millions of people have downloaded and used this app. Now, it turns out that the app is owned by a Russian company. It gets even worse. According to the terms and conditions of this website, the site developers own the rights to all user photo photos. This bit of information has got many people worried because the owners of this site might misuse these photos. The people behind the site claim they delete the photos after a while and they have no intention of using the photos for any dubious activities.
In this era of smart phones, fast internet and Photoshop manipulation, it pays to play safe. Maintain a low profile online and do not make your pictures available to too many sites. Avoid downloading all sorts of unnecessary apps and you just might be safe from the bad guys who produce deepfakes online.