December 1, 2019

‘Deepfakes’ could upend the information economy. Tech companies are girding for battle

Deepfakes are on the rise, with profound implications for the future of the information economy.

ALEXANDRA ROBINSON/AFP via Getty Images

Does the term “fake news” make you cringe? Get ready for the era of really fake news.

So-called “deepfakes” are digitally manipulated photos and videos designed to spread misinformation. They’re so elaborate that they can make celebrities look and sound like they’re saying things they didn’t. Need a primer? Our friend “Adele” will give you the gist.

It’s more than just someone like you

Fake images are disrupting politics already. An altered video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her sound like she was drunk. Reporters debunked that one, but it’s getting harder to spot the phonies.

The cybersecurity company Deeptrace found that online deepfakes almost doubled in a recent 9-month stretch, according to the WSJ.

Can Big Tech slow the spread?

Companies like Google and Facebook are trying to stem the tide. Facebook used actors to make fake videos, and then released them to researchers so that the humans could dissect the frauds.

The bad news? It doesn’t always work — and the fraudsters are usually one step ahead of the detectives.

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