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Deepfakes Imperil Democracy (George Orwell, Right Again)

Ah, I remember when fakes were not so deep.


(More of a shallowfake)

US politicians are getting increasingly worried about deepfakes — a new type of AI-assisted video editing that creates realistic results with minimal effort. Yesterday, a trio of lawmakers sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, asking him to assess the threat posed to national security by this new form of fakery.

The letter says “hyper-realistic digital forgeries” showing “convincing depictions of individuals doing or saying things they never did” could be used for blackmail and misinformation. “As deep fake technology becomes more advanced and more accessible, it could pose a threat to United States public discourse and national security,” say the letter’s signatories, House representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL).

Deepfakes first came to prominence in 2016 when users on Reddit started using cutting-edge AI research to paste the faces of celebrities onto porn. The term itself doesn’t refer to any particular research, but is a portmanteau that combines “deep learning” with “fakes.” The phrase was first used by a Reddit user, but is slowly becoming synonymous with a wide-range of AI editing technology. Such tools can turn people into virtual puppets, syncing their mouths with someone else’s speech, or just making them dance like a pro.

(Via The Verge.)

Readers of dusty tomes such as 1984, the novel written by George Orwell in 1948, of course do not find this surprising:

As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of ‘The Times’ had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs — to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct, nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.
(Read more about rewriting history by George Orwell from 1984)

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