This deepfake illustration shows faces that were computer-generated. (Source:

Deepfakes Compound Internet’s Ability to Mislead in Politics, News

From a State Farm ad that uncannily shows a newscaster predicting the future to President Obama using a swear word to describe Trump, deepfakes are worrying people who seek to keep consumers aware of their threat.

“The amount of deepfake content online is growing at a rapid rate,” says a story on “At the beginning of 2019 there were 7,964 deepfake videos online, according to a report from startup Deeptrace; just nine months later, that figure had jumped to 14,678. It has no doubt continued to balloon since then.”

Currently, it’s still possible to figure out which videos are manipulated and which are authentic, but in the past nine months, the technology has advanced to the point that it’s becoming more difficult to separate them.

While pornography with celebrities’ heads superimposed on bodies represented the main form of deepfakes two years ago, more often now they’re being used to manipulate the public into believing false narratives.

“It does not require much imagination to grasp the harm that could be done if entire populations can be shown fabricated videos that they believe are real,” Forbes writer Rob Toews explains. “Imagine deepfake footage of a politician engaging in bribery or sexual assault right before an election; or of U.S. soldiers committing atrocities against civilians overseas; or of President Trump declaring the launch of nuclear weapons against North Korea. In a world where even some uncertainty exists as to whether such clips are authentic, the consequences could be catastrophic.”

The Brookings Institution studied the phenomenon and concluded that the threat is greater than mere disinformation, but can lead to:

 “…distorting democratic discourse; manipulating elections; eroding trust in institutions; weakening journalism; exacerbating social divisions; undermining public safety; and inflicting hard-to-repair damage on the reputation of prominent individuals, including elected officials and candidates for office.”

Legislators are starting to approach the problem by beginning to draft new laws to address deepfakes. Senator Marco Rubio told Forbes that they could undermine elections.

The Forbes story describes several incidences in which deepfakes impacted viewpoints in countries, such as a deepfake video of the Belgian prime minister giving a speech that linked the COVID-19 outbreak to environmental damage and called for drastic action on climate change. In two other countries, Malaysia and Brazil, politicians claimed that compromising videos were deepfakes even though they were authentic.

The Forbes story probes several implications, while also explaining the basis of the technology, including how generative adversarial networks (GANs) work to create deepfakes.