You might have seen it in one of the apps trending the last few weeks: you upload your photo and you now have a video of yourself doing a dance number or performing a song while projecting a better version of you – a younger, more beautiful, and perhaps a more confident you.
Deepfake as defined by Wikipedia is considered as synthetic media wherein a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone. It is a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake.” Not only is it easy to make, but the ability to deceive is relatively high given this technology. Considering the amount of data that is shared online, it is not impossible that this technology can be misused to serve ill intentions.
At this point, it appears that there are more downsides to this technology rather than upside, with the latter still very much in the research and development phase. One positive use case of deepfake is in the creation of corporate training videos where we can also see down the road how this can be of use in the education sector in creating online educational materials, especially when we are still living in a pandemic era. Not only is this possible in the education sector but film production outfits may take advantage of this in creating compelling stories. Deepfake can also help those who require accessibility, especially when we talk of synthetic voice for people who have visual impairments or suffering from ALS.
Perhaps the more gripping conversation to be had at this point is in the downside of such technology and how it can affect all of us in the process. With deepfake being able to fake identities (and create new ones, called sockpuppets), the kind of content that can be created becomes limitless. You can be blackmailed with content that may not necessarily come from you, you may appear in porn content, or you may also be replaced with a digital actor. On a grander scale, this is also a growing concern in politics and how deepfake can be used to misrepresent politicians in videos. Add the looming election season in the mix and you have a compelling reason to act.
Globally, some countries have started legislation regarding deepfake. The United States for example has just approved the US National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA where it requires the Department of Homeland Security to issue an annual report for the next five years on deepfakes. The state of Texas, moreover, was the first state to ban deepfakes that were designed to influence election last 2019. China, on the other hand, is ahead of the curve with their new law that makes deepfake videos illegal unless there is a disclosure made stating that digital alteration took place.
The Philippines is still far behind in terms of studying and creating policies on this technology given that we are still grappling with other technology-related issues. While we also need to be vigilant and cautious with the information we share, perhaps it is also to our benefit to think twice before uploading yet another photo to join yet another trending bandwagon for the sake of laughs and good vibes.
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include nation-building, sustainability education, and financial literacy. The author may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.