What is a "Deepfake" Video? How Can I Spot One?
You’re scrolling your social media feed and see a video of a popular political figure saying something outrageous. You immediately rush to comment on it and give your two cents. But are you being fooled?
An adage of the digital age is that you can’t believe everything you see on the internet. That’s especially true on social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
Not only can people “Photoshop” objects into images that make it seem like a celebrity is doing something nefarious or embarrassing, but videos can also be faked in the same way using new face-swapping technology.
A “Deepfake” is the name for a video that has been manipulated to make it look like a person is saying or doing something they didn’t really do. For example, a deepfake can be made to have Tom Cruise tell you how wonderful you are and that he’s always wanted to meet you. Upon a quick look at the video, it will seem like he’s really saying it.
But it is actually an actor creating the video and sophisticated technology that puts Tom Cruise’s face over the face of that actor.
Deep Fake Basics: How Do They Do That?
Have you ever seen a crime show on TV where audio recordings were pieced together to make it sound like a person said something different than what they actually said?
For example, you may say “I love to garden and share carrots with our neighbor Tom and his wife.”
An expert splicing words from that audio can make it sound like you said, “I love Tom, our neighbor.” In which case, Tom’s wife might want to have a word with you.
Deepfakes take that manipulation up several notches.
The faker needs to first have lots of videos from the celebrity or political figure to use. They also need to have lots of audio that they can splice into the things they want it to seem like that celebrity is saying.
Then, the faker uses an actor to act out the video. Then the faker puts all that stuff into a software program and tells it to swap in the celebrity’s face for the face of the actor.
If done right, it’s very difficult to tell if the video is real or fake.
What’s the Point of Deepfakes?
Why do people bother making these fake videos? There are many different reasons. It’s similar to why people make fake photoshopped images.
Common reasons these fake videos are made include:
To stir up political anger/resentment
To be funny
To show off a talent
To extort money from famous people by threatening to release a fake video
To manipulate the stock market by making it look like a CEO said something impacting the company
Phishing attempt to fool employees/students/followers into providing personal information
To get clicks, comments, and likes on a post
How Can You Tell Real from Fake?
If you can’t even believe the videos you see on the internet, how do you know what’s real and what’s not?
Think about any phishing tutoring or training you may have gotten in the past to help detect fake emails. It’s a similar tactic you’ll use to spot a fake video. This includes looking over the video carefully, just like you do a suspicious email. It also means to question something that seems outrageous, unexpected, or out of place.
Here are some tips that can help you spot these deepfakes.
Ask Yourself is this Video Designed to Elicit an Emotional Response?
Often, the most common sign of any type of fake – photo, email, or video – is that it is designed to elicit an immediate emotional response. Something like, “I can’t believe he/she would say that!” or “Someone needs to do something about that person!”
If a video seems outrageous and immediately makes you want to take action to either share or comment, take a step back and consider that it may be a fake.
Look for Unnatural Blinking or Eye Movement
When doing a face swap from one person to another, things aren’t always seamless. There can be little signs that something is “off.” One of these is in the eyes.
If you see frequent blinking that seems unnatural or strange eye movements, then there is a good chance the video has been manipulated.
Look for Lip Syncing
It’s not always easy to match up lip movement with the words being played if you are digitally putting words into someone’s mouth.
Sometimes the timing on these deepfakes can cause telltale signs of lip-syncing when mouth movement is not in sync with the words being spoken.
Anomalies Around Soft Edges (like Hair)
Hair and other soft edges, like a fuzzy sweater, are difficult to cut around and place on another background. So, another sign of a deepfake video is if there is a weird edge around the hair or any other soft edge areas.
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