The Art (Not Science) of Deepfakes

ArtFamily/Shutterstock.com

Modern machine-learning technology brings deepfakes within reach of anyone.

Fake news is so 2018. The new, real news is more worrisome: video creation by almost anyone, that manipulates the truth in very convincing ways. Sen. Mark Warner, top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently acknowledged the intelligence community is “extremely concerned” about the rise of deepfake technology.

Deepfakes are videos or images that substitute someone else’s face in place of the person in the original media. Their use in influencing voters is top of mind as 2020 approaches. While politicians often do a great job of getting themselves into trouble without the help of deepfake trolls, it isn’t hard to imagine deepfake videos being used to inflict additional damage to a candidate’s chances at a pivotal moment in a campaign.

But the impact of deepfakes extends well beyond elections. They could be used as a form of personal revenge or assault against women (and men too). Celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence have already spoken out against deepfakes that placed her face on the bodies of porn stars. Nation-states could get tricked into making military, political and judicial decisions based on fake videos. For now, this risk is most acute for developing countries where intelligence services might lack the technical acumen to discern deepfakes, but as the art evolves, such videos could dupe highly capable intelligence services too.

If these examples are concerning, keep in mind that they’re only the beginning. Deepfakes are easy to create. Modern machine-learning technology brings deepfakes within reach of anyone with a reasonably powerful graphics card and off-the-Github software. The code repo at Github says that Faceswap, the code that makes deepfakes possible, “is a tool that utilizes deep learning to recognize and swap faces in pictures and videos.” All that’s required to produce a video that convincingly swaps one face for another is a reasonable number of images of those two faces.

About Machine Learning and Deepfakes

The branch of machine learning called deep learning employs artificial neural networks. We say “deep” because of the number of layers of artificial neurons through which data is processed, transformed at each layer into increasingly abstract form: pixels into edges, edges into shapes, shapes into complex objects, for example—you guessed it—faces.

Digging deeper, Faceswap uses a novel configuration of autoencoder neural networks. A single encoder takes in imagery. The output of that encoder is then used to train two decoder neural nets to reproduce accurate images of each actor, respectively. Once the decoders are trained, we play a trick: pass images of one person to the encoder, but connect the encoder’s output to another person’s decoder. None of this work requires expertise in machine learning or graphics editing.

What’s worrying is not the current state of deepfakes, but that neural network design is an art form, not a science, because no one understands exactly how neural networks do what they do. Fakes will continue to evolve as better neural network art emerges, which will in turn increasingly enable amateur artists (let’s call them what they are: machine learning enabled trolls) across the broad landscape of the internet to produce more and more convincing but false video and images.

Government and Industry Efforts Underway

A variety of technical approaches are under development to better detect deepfakes. One approach analyzes the blink rate of subjects in videos.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is also working on the problem, partnering with several of the country’s leading research institutions through the DARPA Media Forensics program to detect tiny but recognizable discrepancies between audio and visual tracks in deepfakes.

Another promising approach relies on the provenance of imagery. Many cameras and all image and video editing software can insert tamper-proof metadata that describes where an image came from, when it was created, and how it was derived. A bit more work could use this capability trace provenance of imagery composed from original images, even for multiple generations of derivation. Browser plug-ins could then read this metadata and offer each user evidence with which to decide on believability.

To induce the question of whether real is fake or fake is real is to threaten fundamental trust in a large society, simply because we cannot connect face to face. But whose job is it to combat deepfakes and elevate fact? The executive branch and Congress will certainly need to play a role, but much like internet-of-things security, ultimate oversight is a muddled picture with no clear accountability. That picture is even more muddled when we can, with no training and little effort, swap faces in it at will.

Dr. David Archer is a principal researcher in privacy and cryptography at Galois.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.