What does the future of fake news look like? No one really knows, but here’s a little sampler from Jordan Peele and BuzzFeed, who teamed up to make the above PSA. Using some of the latest AI techniques, Peele ventriloquizes Barack Obama, having him voice his opinion on Black Panther (“Killmonger was right”) and call President Donald Trump “a total and complete dipshit.”
The video was made by Peele’s production company using a combination of old and new technology: Adobe After Effects and the AI face-swapping tool FakeApp. The latter is the most prominent example of how AI can facilitate the creation of photorealistic fake videos. It started life on Reddit as a tool for making fake celebrity porn, but it has since become a worrying symbol of the power of AI to generate misinformation and fake news.
Yes, we’ve had software to create fakes for a while, but AI makes the whole process easier. Researchers have developed tools that let you perform face swaps like the one above in real time; Adobe is creating a “Photoshop for audio” that lets you edit dialogue as easily as a photo; and a Canadian startup named Lyrebird offers a service that lets you fake someone else’s voice with just a few minutes of audio. Technologist Aviv Ovadya summed up the fears created by this tech, asking BuzzFeed News, “What happens when anyone can make it appear as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it did?”
Scientists are currently creating tools that can spot AI fakes, but at the moment, the best shield against this sort of misinformation is instilling everyone with a little more media savvy. If you see a provocative video, you should ask yourself: where does this come from? Have other outlets corroborated it? Does it even look real? In the case of AI-generated videos, you can usually see that they’re fake by telltale signs of distortion and blurring.
As “Obama” says in the PSA: “It may sound basic, but how we move forward in the Age of Information is going to be the difference between whether we survive or whether we become some kind of fucked up dystopia.”