What are Deepfakes?

Deepfakes have been gaining more and more attention. If you're been keeping up with Shane Dawson's various docuseries, you may have seen his two movie-length conspiracy videos. The first video explores the rise and use of deepfakes. These videos make it harder to trust the content we see online, but can they be helpful in anyway?

What are deepfakes?

A deepfake is a generative adversarial network, or GAN, that utilizes machine learning techniques to replicate an image. This image can be placed over another. The outcome is a video that makes it look like one person is doing something, when really it is just their face on another person's body. With the improvement of technology and rise of voice manipulation software, deepfakes are even more tricky to spot.

Why are they dangerous?

Many platforms have banned deepfakes for some pretty obivous reasons. One of the biggest controversies with deepfakes is their use in pornography. Celebrities' faces are commonly placed over actors without their consent. While these deepfakes are relatively easy to spot, it brings the concern of using deepfakes as payback. You may have seen a video created by Buzzfeed of Barak Obama giving a PSA. This video was created by actor and director, Jordan Peele.

Hypothetically, anyone with access to this technology can create fake videos of friends, family members, classmates, coworkers or their ex doing or saying anything they want. You may think this type of editing software is expensive and only available to Hollywood elites and tech geniuses, but an application called FakeApp makes this technology more accessible to every person. The technology isn't perfect and after careful inspection, you may be able to spot a deepfake. However, like other forms of technology, it will improve over time and make it harder to spot the fakes.

Is there a non-cynical use for deepfakes?

Deepfakes seem scary, but they can also be used in helpful ways. For example, have you ever tried watching a foreign film in which the original dialogue is replaced with English? It can be annoying when the actor's voice does not match up with the movements of their mouth. With deepfakes, moviemakers could alter these images to make the words match up. Another use would be to create a performance of deceased actors, singers and musicians. Remember when Fast and Furious star Paul Walker tragically died in a car accident while filming Fast and Furious 7? Special effects company, Weta Digital, used Walker's brother to help create scenes in his place using graphics

While deepfakes are made out to be a scary new technology breaking our trust, they do have some useful purposes. Regulations can be hard to maintain on the internet and it's near impossible to take down all deepfake videos. However, their more helpful uses could help this technology be seen in a positive light.