‘that they should make an image unto the beast, and that the image should speak.’
When seeing is no longer believing. Inside the Pentagon’s race against deepfake videos. A ‘beastly digital tool’ of deception for the coming age. ‘That they who dwell on the earth should make an image unto the beast, and that the image should speak.’
Advances in artificial intelligence could soon make creating convincing fake audio and video – known as “deepfakes” – relatively easy. Making a person appear to say or do something they did not has the potential to take the war of disinformation to a whole new level.
Take the quiz: Can you spot the deepfake?
Manipulating video is nothing new — just look at Hollywood
It’s been possible to alter video footage for decades, but doing it took time, highly skilled artists, and a lot of money. Deepfake technology could change the game. As it develops and proliferates, anyone could have the ability to make a convincing fake video, including some people who might seek to “weaponize” it for political or other malicious purposes.
See how deepfakes are different. Computers, not humans, do the hard work
Now deepfake technology is on the US government’s radar
The Pentagon, through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is working with several of the country’s biggest research institutions to get ahead of deepfakes.
But in order to learn how to spot deepfakes, you first have to make them. That takes place at the University of Colorado in Denver, where researchers working on DARPA’s program are trying to create convincing deepfake videos. These will later be used by other researchers who are developing technology to detect what’s real and what’s fake.
How are they made?
Spotting a deepfake
A thousand miles west of Denver a team at SRI International in Menlo Park, California is developing the crucial second component to DARPA’s program: technology to spot a deepfake.
How are they detected?
By feeding computers examples of real videos as well as deepfake videos, these researchers are training computers to detect deepfake videos.
What about fake audio?
Training computers to recognize visual inconsistencies is one way researchers at SRI are working to detect deepfakes. They’re also focusing on fake audio.
Who else is studying deepfake technology?
Researchers at academic institutions like Carnegie Mellon, the University of Washington, Stanford University, and The Max Planck Institute for Informatics are also experimenting with deepfake technology. While not a part of DARPA’s program, their work, some of which is featured above and here, highlights different techniques with which artificial intelligence can be used to manipulate video. *Note: these clips do not have audio.
The emergence of deepfake technology has prompted members of the U.S. Congress to request a formal report from the Director of National Intelligence. Senator Marco Rubio worries about the global fallout after a convincing deepfake goes viral before it’s detected.
A new kind of arms race?