Recent news has been dominated by the deepfake video of Tom Cruise. Though not uncharacteristic for the actor’s previous antics, the video showed Cruise demonstrating a magic trick. Despite receiving over 10 million views, the creator, Chris Ume, even recognized that “You will always have people misusing techniques, so you have to think twice when you look at something.” Especially in the context of the pandemic, the burgeoning role of misinformation cannot be underestimated.
One of the most infamous instances of misinformation is Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. As a result, they were fined in both the UK and the US. In the former, they were attributed with a penalty of £500,000 to the Information Commissioner’s Office, and in the latter, £5 billion to the Federal Trade Commission. It was only the beginning of our harmless social media seemingly turning against us and swaying our view. Indeed, even Google’s search engine is tailored towards your preferences, effectively feeding you information and not objectively unbiased results we specifically use the engine for. Our reliance on such informational sources were secretly weaponized, and unaware civilians were left with no defence.
The issue of deepfakes adheres to the same harmful trend. With Deeptraces stating that there were 14,678 deepfake videos online, this represented a 100% increase from their survey in 2018. Appreciating the growing dangers of misinformation of COVID-19 vaccines, only exacerbated by the growing list of anti-vaccine novels available from mainstream publishers such as Waterstones, information needs increased regulation. Though the UK has attempted to combat such issues by empowering Ofcom to regulate further online harms, and are in the process of enacting regulatory legislation, this may not be enough. The imperative question of interfering with free speech has once again been raised by opposers.
It is true that the Ume’s deepfakes showcase the creative trajectory of technology. Yet, the government’s worries and measures should not be taken lightly. Increased opportunity fosters a realm of extensive manipulation. Our understanding, news, and reliance on information should not be hindered by this and can be resisted by exercising increased, meticulous caution.
This article was written on March 6th 2021.