Fake videos: the newest assault on truth

The technology to create fake videos has arrived. Another tool to make you question your own senses. Another device to make you so unsure of truth you wouldn’t recognize it if it nipped you on the ankles.

Currently there are two methods to create “deepfakes”, the term for doctored videos.

Video Puppetry

With this technology, existing video of a public figure is the digital equivalent of a sock puppet. It can be altered to make the target appear to say anything the puppeteers want. Watch this two-minute video to understand how this technology works.

Face swap technology

Face swap technology started out as a way to have some silly fun on apps like SnapChat and has evolved to create of fake pornographic videos. The technology first appeared on porn sites in 2017 in fake pornographic videos of female celebrities. 

The potential application of this technology in information warfare is significant.

Just days before an election a graphic sex video tears through the internet. By the time it can be proved false, the damage is done.

Then there is the other side of the coin. It can be used to create plausible deniability and doubt when a real video emerges. You can hear the press conference now. “It’s a fake, there is technology out there where these kinds of videos can be faked.”

How to spot a fake video

We have reverse image search to debunk fake photos. Unfortunately at this time we do not have a similar tools to debunk fake videos. We are going to have to draw on our best digital resilience skills to vet questionable videos. One hint we got from the video clip above – if Putin is smiling it is probably a falsified video.

The Department of Defense (DOD) is taking falsified videos seriously and looking for ways to identify and counter them. This article lists some tells of falsified videos.  One of the keys is to look at the eyes. In the fake videos subjects often fail to blink and the eye color may be odd The shape of the face may be a bit off as well as the fake video generates a hybrid of the target and the puppeteer.

World leaders are unlikely to grant interviews to obscure websites and Facebook pages. Look at where the video is posted. Can it only be found on some weird little website or via a Facebook group? Any footage of a world leader will also be available on multiple media websites as well. Whatever your opinions on the trustworthiness of the big media sources for reporting the news they will all have the same footage of a world leader’s public statement.

Remember, the puppetry technology is overlaid on preexisting videos. That means the original video is out there somewhere.

Examine the background is this person speaking at state event? Is it at the White House? Downing Street? A world summit? Did they perpetrators get lazy and leave in the logo of the news organization from which they stole the video? Look for the original via the news organization’s YouTube channel or contact them to let them know about the fake video.

Or wait a few hours. There are internet nerds and geeks out there examining these things. As soon as something appears they are digging in to prove or disprove its validity. As with all potential disinformation, do not share until you vet. No matter how much it confirms your confirmation bias.

Learn more about fake videos and their implications:

Everything You Need To Know About The Face-Swap Technology That’s Sweeping The Internet (And Getting Banned — A good introduction to the origins of face swap technology.

MIT Technology Review:The Defense Department has produced the first tools for catching deepfakes – The DOD is taking falsified videos seriously and looking for ways to identify and counter them.

Lawfare Blog – Deep Fakes: A Looming Crisis for National Security, Democracy and Privacy? – An analysis of the danger this technology poses to our national security, including a list of possible scenarios and possible defense technology

Vanity Fair – Fake News is About to Get Even Scarier Than You Ever Dreamed – An in depth look at fake video technology including several examples of how it has been used.

BBC- Fake Obama created using AI tool to make phony speeches

Motherboard – We Are Truly F@&$%: Everyone Is Making AI-Generated Fake Porn Now – An explanation of how face swapping technology is used to create fake porn.

Face2Face: Real-time Face Capture and Reenactment of RGB Videos – An extended video 6:35 minutes) explaining in more depth the technology of altering video of a person speaking

The Atlantic: The End of Reality