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What are 'deepfakes' and the dangers as we head into election season

Posted at 6:50 PM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 19:50:50-04

As technology continues to advance, new dangers arise in the information that we can find due to artificial intelligence. Deepfakes are one example of this new technology that is particularly dangerous, though many may find fascinating

This new technology allows anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to create realistic-looking photos and videos of people saying and doing things that they did not actually say or do.

The most recent deepfake example is the State Farm commercial that aired on ESPN for the first time this year. However, many viewers believed it happened 20 years ago. The commercial showed analysts making accurate predictions about events that would happen this year.

It's intent wasn't to deceive, and that's the danger of deepfakes warns Texas A&M University Professor Jonathan Coopersmith, because the technology is at everyone's fingertips.

"Almost anybody can create their own very compelling fake imagery now,” said Coopersmith.

This cutting edge technology is so new that it's posing great concerns for society as we learn we can't believe everything we see.

"Probably the worst part of all, the destruction of trust,” said Coopersmith.

During this political season, campaigns are taking measures when it comes to protecting their candidates, which includes documenting everything in case a deepfake surfaces.

"Pete Buttigieg campaign spent a lot of time documenting everything that candidate was doing, not just to say, "Look at how active it is and all the great things he is doing," but also if a fake appeared, they would be able to look at our feed and say that's not what happened,” explained Coopersmith.

To combat deepfakes, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are rigorously taking action on what is deemed inappropriate or harmful. While the law protecting individuals against deepfakes is complicated, those platforms are going to have to protect users from being manipulated by videos.

“It worries a lot of disinformation experts. These are people who have a concern about what’s going to happen in the upcoming election," said Coopersmith.

These dangers create uncertainty around fake news and real news. While there will be some technological responses to deepfakes, the social responses will play the biggest role.

Currently there is no law that bans the use and distribution of deepfakes.