Sunday, June 16, 2019

Photoshop and Cheapfake to Deepfake

"The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command." — George Orwell, "1984"

There has been a photoshopped image of Italian nuns taking a selfie in front of the David in Florence going around for a year or more on social media.  It's fake, but people keep posting it anyway, and many believe it's real.  Especially old people - people my age.  That's unfortunate, because they keep posting it and one day it could be used to suggest old nuns are sexually repressed or just silly old women.  I post that the image is photoshopped with a link to the real photo of the nuns taking their selfie in St. Peter's Square.  I explain that this is a hit on women, women religious have a particular dignity.  I am always surprised when women post the meme.

Friends my age love to post gifs and memes mocking Trump and Sarah Sanders and anyone associated with this administration.  Likewise, conservatives post fake photos of Pelosi and Obama, and now cheapfake videos are spreading, altering faces and voices, to sound drunk, and so on.  All of this is getting more and more problematic with the popularization of deepfake technology.

I'm especially surprised when those who post such things, also tend to rage about bullying and discrimination, or even sometimes lament that they themselves were bullied or abused as kids, on the playground or in school.  Not only that, most everyone decries 'fake news' and yet many disseminate fake memes and gifs without realizing how much they are contributing to the problem. Oddly enough, most of these same people are retired college educated professionals who evidently do not recognize their active participation in spreading disinformation and in some cases, hate.

Of course, I use gifs and memes, but I've made it my practice to avoid the types which smear or shame others.  I also try not to post the trash memes and gifs which take down public figures and groups.  There is of course a place for legitimate parody or satirical art, which I've done, but there is no mistaking that for the deepfake technology intended to influence politically or divide and 'conquer' public opinion.

Manipulating the truth.

The word deepfake has been around only for a couple years. It is a combination of “deep learning” – which is a subset of AI that uses neural networks – and “fake.” The result is that it's possible to manipulate videos that still look authentic.
During the past couple weeks, we have seen high-profile examples of this. There was a deepfake of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who seemed to be talking about world domination. Then there was another one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in which it appeared she was slurring her speech (this actually used less sophisticated technology known as “cheapfake”).
Congress is getting concerned, especially in light of the upcoming 2020 election. This week the House Intelligence Committee had a hearing on deepfake. Although, it does look remote that much will be done.
“The rise of deepfakes on social media is a series of cascading issues that will have real consequences around our concept of freedom of speech,” said Joseph Anthony, who is the CEO of Hero Group. “It’s extremely dangerous to manipulate the truth when important decisions weigh in the balance, and the stakes are high across the board. Viral deepfake videos don’t just damage the credibility of influential people like politicians, brands and celebrities; they could potentially cause harm to our society by affecting stock prices or global policy efforts. Though some people are creating them for good fun and humor, experimenting with this technology is like awakening a sleeping giant. It goes beyond goofing off, into manipulative and malicious territory.” - Tom Taulli, Forbes

As a group, we baby-boomers seem to be enthusiastically embracing the technology that may someday be used against us.

In my neighborhood everyone seems to have
home security cameras, ring camera,
their phones, GPS, and smart everything.
We're beyond 1984.


  1. It gives a worrisome twist to the old challenge, "Who you gonna believe--me or your lying eyes?" Our eyes, which are ideally windows for the truth, are being manipulated into being the portals for lies.

  2. There has always been manipulation and lies throughout history. It will continues to get harder to detect and more sophisticated. It begins at the top, both both sides are guilty. I have a theory that when the dark days come it will be literally true when the Internet and most media go dark. Our information will be filtered "for our own good."

  3. I just read an article about police wanting homeowners with doorbell cameras to register with them so if a crime happens in the neighborhood they can have access in case suspects were caught on tape. So many have cameras now, they feel it will help them police better. Sounds innocent enough, huh?


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