The deepfake arms race

The deepfake arms race

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The science of detecting deepfakes is moving fast – fakers continually get better at creating videos of people saying and doing things they never did in real life, while detection research tries to get ahead of them.

Deepfake technology can be deployed by almost anyone, including political parties, intelligence agencies, militant groups, and online trolls in order to discredit, frame or embarrass their rivals. Computer scientists are already rushing to come up with deepfake countermeasures. “There’s an arms race,” Mark Riedl, an associate professor of computer science at Georgia Tech, told 'The Daily Beast'.

A deepfake video, still image, or audio recording is the product of coding called a “generative adversarial network,” or GAN. The underlying code of a GAN isn’t hard to find, but for faking a photo or video of a person, a lot of clear images of that person’s face are needed. Most deepfakes are made by showing a computer algorithm many images of a person, and then having it use what it saw to generate new face images. “It is likely that a malevolent entity would need more than a single image, audio or video to effectively sway opinion at scale,” said Polo Chau, a Georgia Tech computer scientist.

However, there are methods of countering deepfakes that don’t solely rely on code. Purveyors of deepfakes need social media accounts and unscrupulous media outlets to help spread the malicious content, Chau explained. “And that exposes the purveyor of the deepfake to social-media analysis,” Riedl said. “You can analyze that and find out where these things originate from, look at the network around this person and find out if they’re an artificial entity or linked to known groups.”

“You can counter-program against that,” Reidl added. Methods could include blocking or reporting the account posting the deepfake. “That’s a very promising way of not dealing with the tech directly.”

“The reason deepfakes are such a threat is not that the tech is so good,” Riedl said. “It’s that people want to be fooled.”

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