Deepfakes: the next threat to our elections?

President Donald Trump stands behind a podium against a stately backdrop and speaks directly to the Belgian people.

“I had the (guts) to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and so should you because what you guys are doing right now in Belgium is actually worse,” he says. His lips move unnaturally quickly, but the voice, body language, and mannerisms are all his, if a little out of place. “You guys agreed, but you’re not taking any measures, only blah blah blah, bing bang boom.”

He speaks for several minutes in the video, which has been viewed nearly 24,000 times on Twitter, before urging Belgians to sign a petition asking their government to pull out of the climate accord.

The video is a fairly obvious fake, created for a small Belgian socialist party using a rapidly improving technology that employs artificial intelligence to weave together two peoples’ faces, words or movements.

When done well, the videos, known as deepfakes, can be quite convincing. The unethical applications are legion, and their potential for tricking voters is a source of great concern for many in the artificial intelligence and political communities.

In one clip, produced for Buzzfeed as an example of the technology, actor Jordan Peele’s impression of Barack Obama is integrated seamlessly into a video of the former President speaking.

“It’s an incredibly powerful fake in some ways because the whole video is real except for just around the mouth part and it is literally a very powerful example of putting words into a world leader’s mouth. It’s pretty compelling,” said Hany Farid, a leading computer forensics expert at Dartmouth College who develops techniques for detecting deepfakes. “And those are the types of videos that worry me — where you can generate world leaders saying just about anything.”

There are open software applications that allow anyone with a high-performing system and experience in computer science to create low-quality deepfakes. It takes more skill to produce a video that could reasonably be expected to dupe voters and media outlets, said Tim Hwang, director of the Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. ..Read More..

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