Imagine this scenario - you open Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, or any other social media and see a person giving an outrageous statement such as: “The right of women to vote should be taken away, it’s a danger to our democracy.” Now imagine this statement coming from a president, prime minister, or any other important representative of a powerful institution. Years ago something like that wouldn’t have happened, but today it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish between what is real and what is fake on the internet, especially with the growing popularity of deepfakes.
So what are deepfakes? You have probably actually already seen or been sent many. For those not familiar with the term, a deepfake is a form of synthetic media that can be manipulated to showcase whatever one desires. It can range from a harmless claim, for example, “dogs can fly,” to a dangerous one such as the previous example. Deepfakes are devices that one can use for entertainment, fake news, a hoax, or even pornographic content using anyone’s face, more often than not without consent.
The dangers of reliance on technology
Nowadays, we are heavily reliant on technology, using it for our calendars, streaming, reading, making reminders, and more. Smartphones are a necessity and we take the continuous advancement of computers and software as a given, and every year we are presented with new models of phones, computers, and other technology. But it’s no secret that with this transition to online life, especially now, certain dangers become more prevalent. We hear and read rumors of elections being manipulated by hackers, dangerous algorithms or viruses prowling around on the internet, or our private data being collected and leaked by tech moguls. Recently, the idea of deepfakes has created a new threat, and the dangers of its improper use are lurking on the horizon.
Why can deepfakes be so dangerous? The technology makes use of machine learning and artificial intelligence, like most devices, but with a deceptive twist. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), new voice cloning technology is making it harder and harder to distinguish between real voices and those created by deepfakes. It can be especially perilous for seniors that are unfamiliar with this kind of technology, and even for a person fully aware of the existence of deepfakes, it could be extremely difficult to distinguish between a fake voice and a real one of their friend or loved one. The question then becomes, what will happen in a few years when deepfakes become much more advanced, if they already create problems now?
What does the future hold for deepfakes?
We can only ponder on the capabilities of deepfakes of the future. Maybe it will be used to create widespread social distress or an uprising. Perhaps a person close to you will find themselves online doing or saying something that never actually happened because someone manipulated their image as a way of revenge or sabotage. Conceivably, the amount of financial frauds and extortion could increase enormously. Of course, these are only guesses. Currently, the most common use of deepfakes is for entertainment purposes. Even so, we must be careful and always investigate the truth on our own, so as to become aware of the growing perils of this technology. Now more than ever, we have to ask ourselves what is real and what is fake.