Deepfake : A neglected evil?

Shaurya Choudhary
4 min readNov 10, 2020

I’ve been reading about this for quite some time now, and I think now would be a good time to talk about it. This is going to be my first experience at writing a Blog, so pardon my mistakes. Any critics are welcome. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

There’s a fair chance that you may have come across the word “Deepfake” and ignored it. If that’s been the case, this blog might be really intriguing for you. I was introduced to this domain after watching a Netflix documentary “The Great Hack” few months back. I was aware of the scandal ‘The Cambridge Analytica’ pulled out on the Facebook platform. But before watching the documentary, I had little to no idea about the depth of it and the revelation blew my mind. ​

Let me brief what happened 4 years back during 2016 US elections. All the polls and media predicted about 70–90% win chances for Hillary Clinton. Everyone was pretty sure that Trump had no chance whatsoever to become the President of United States. But voila! when results rolled in, Trump took the internet with the blow of his Win.

Polls
Results

Poll predictions have never been obliterated such badly. What went wrong though? How arguably the most hated candidate managed to win the Elections with all the odds against him? Here comes the role of Deepfake, the fate of Trump’s election campaign changed when they signed a deal with The Cambridge Analytica for their social/online election campaign.
The company Cambridge Analytica ran several surveys on Facebook, and collected all the possible data about the participant and his/her complete friend list by exploiting privacy policies. Not long from then, they managed to create a database about almost every person in the United States area. They used this data to target gullible person who had some issues with the previous Government or shown rebellious nature. They used Deepfakes and spammed the targeted people on all the social media platforms to manipulate them for voting against Hillary Clinton. And as the campaign ended, they hit the bullseye with Trump’s victory. The Cambridge Analytica changed the fate of 2016 US elections.

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​”Deepfakes are synthetic media in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness. While the act of faking content is a not new, deepfakes leverage powerful techniques from machine learning and artificial intelligence to manipulate or generate visual and audio content with a high potential to deceive​.”
​- Wikipedia

Cambridge Analytica also played a huge role during the Brexit Movement. From the “daring adventures” of one company alone, we can assess how dangerous Deepfake can be with its limitless potential. It can be used across all the domains to gain an unfair advantage over others. Today, the computing power is increasing at an exponential rate enabling much enhanced Machine learning, this makes Deepfake more viable than ever before. According to a MIT technology report, a device that enables deepfakes can be “a perfect weapon for purveyors of fake news who want to influence everything from stock prices to elections.” We are at that point in the history where everything is being connected online. You name it, from buying groceries for your home to launching a satellite, it’s all on the web. So, here’s the question, “How do you know if something’s real in the online world?”

The same AI used to develop Deepfakes can also be used to detect them. As I’m writing this block, several companies like Microsoft, and Facebook are currently working in collaboration with top Universities across the globe for the development of such models that can detect and remove Deepfakes from the internet. With the technological advancements, the Deepfakes are getting more realistic and can easily fool our eyes. So, our best measure is to be aware about the matter and stop circulating them.
That would be all for this blog. And as the elders said,

“Don’t believe everything you ​see on the internet.”

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