Deepfakes – when video evidence lies

Internet Risks

You can't believe everything you see on the internet – even if you see it in a video. Deepfakes – fake media content created with the help of artificial intelligence – are popping up more and more frequently on social media and elsewhere on the internet. The aim is often to spread false information. Deepfakes are a problem not only for celebrities and politicians.

iBarry in front of pixelated photo on screen

If you find something on the internet and can hardly believe your eyes, you are probably dealing with a deepfake. The word is a combination of "deep learning" and "fake". Deep learning is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) where the AI "learns" from examples and is then able to imitate what it has learned. This is exactly what deepfakes do. For example, the AI may first learn what a person's face looks like. Then the face can be inserted into any video.

Deepfakes occur in different forms:

Deepfakes as such aren't criminal. Their legal applications may include:

Although deepfakes as such are not illegal, their use may still break the law – especially relating to data protection and copyright. But deepfakes may also be used with clearly questionable or even unlawful intent, including:

The number of cases in which deepfakes are used for cybercriminal activities is still manageable. But the technology is developing rapidly. The computing power required for deepfakes is steadily decreasing. And the quality is improving all the time. It should therefore be assumed that the problems involving deepfakes will increase.

How to detect deepfakes

A healthy dose of scepticism can help you stay safe even in the age of deepfakes. No matter what you see and hear – only what you can verify is really true. Given the current state of technology, deepfakes are still recognisable if you look closely – at least for now. If you suspect you may have a deepfake in front of you, pay attention to the following points:

Universities are already announcing successes in the automatic detection of deepfakes. A team from the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California, for example, is able to detect deepfakes with a 96% success rate.

And how do you prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a deepfake?

A convincing deepfake requires a high volume of image and sound material of the person to be faked. So if you want to keep your face unique, you shouldn't put too much of yourself online. If there are no or only incomplete recordings of a person's voice or face, no AI can imitate them.

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