As a speaker at Ethereal Virtual Summit made her presentation today on deepfakes – fake AI-generated videos – suddenly, the livestream Youtube went dark. His speech included a screenshot of a deepfake video, which YouTube’s algorithms apparently didn’t like.
Here’s the irony: Kathryn Harrison, as the founder of the DeepTrust Alliance, a coalition fighting digital disinformation, is actually on a mission to fight deepfakes. That was the whole point of his speech. That and how blockchain could help.
“Sensational!” Harrison tweeted afterwards. “My first time as a PROHIBITED speaker.”
But therein lies the problem of deepfakes. It becomes more and more difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is false. And social media is still pinpointing them.
Harrison, who was previously the director of overall product management for IBM Blockchain, believes blockchain can help because it is immutable and provides a source of trust.
Deepfakes and cheapfakes
Today, the biggest problem is that of the “cheap”, which are created with a technology like Photoshop, which has existed for a long time, said Harrison. But the future threat is deepfakes, which are getting easier and cheaper to create.
As Harrison explained, a deepfake is an image, video or sound created by AI for humans to do or say things they never did or say. The underlying technology is known as “conflicting generative networks”, or GAN for short.
Specifically, GANs are a method of combining existing images with AI to create an entirely new and even more realistic image. In short, it will allow you to superimpose anyone’s face on someone else’s. “People can use this to discredit real, true and real information,” said Harrison.
“You can now download a program that will allow you to swap your face during a live Zoom or Skype call,” she warned.
Some deepfakes are humorous. Harrison cited the example of Elon Musk as Dave in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. “The lights, the colors, the movements of her mouth are perfect,” she said.
But deepfake comes in more insidious forms. “The fact that this technology exists means that people can use it to discredit really true information,” she said. It makes it easier for criminal syndicates to imitate your identity to gain access to your accounts. Finally, there is the growing problem of extortion and harassment.
She cited the famous example of a French-speaking journalist in India, Rana Ayyub, whose opponents stuck her face on a porn video and posted it on the Internet. It got to the point where the UN had to intervene to get video removed from the public internet within the Indian community.
“Deepfake porn is one of the biggest risks,” said Harrison, adding that he represents the majority of all deepfakes.
It will take time and a coordinated effort to resolve this problem. “No party can solve this problem alone,” she said. “You need hardware, software and people.”
And just when Harrison was about to highlight all of the blockchain’s goods and graces, the screen when the black and the video of his presentation stopped playing on Youtube.