Deepfakes: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed!

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What is it about?

According to https://www.igi-global.com/dictionaryDeepfakes are videos featuring humans manipulated by computational intelligence.” Furthermore, according to John Brandon at Fox News( https://fxn.ws/2REgznA ): “Artificial intelligence and machine learning help us in countless ways. Bots like Alexa and Cortana can read the news on cue; a Tesla Model S can park itself in your garage. Yet, as with any emerging technology meant to help mankind, it’s not uncommon for criminals and hackers to abuse the innovations and cause great harm. The latest exploit? They are called deepfakes, and they are spreading like wildfire.”

Origin of the term

John Brandon continues: “Deepfakes come from a combination of “deep learning” and “fake” — deepfakes rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning. Programmers use existing video and images of celebrities, public figures, or anyone they know to superimpose the source images into a pornographic movie.”

Outside academia, the term appeared in Reddit as Cole reports ( https://bit.ly/2Yw2tpU ) In December 2017, Motherboard discovered a redditor named ‘deepfakes’ quietly enjoying his hobby: Face-swapping celebrity faces onto porn performers’ bodies. He made several convincing porn videos of celebrities—including Gal Gadot, Maisie Williams, and Taylor Swift—using a machine learning algorithm, his home computer, publicly available videos, and some spare time. Since we first wrote about deepfakes, the practice of producing AI-assisted fake porn has exploded. More people are creating fake celebrity porn using machine learning, and the results have become increasingly convincing. Another redditor even created an app specifically designed to allow users without a computer science background to create AI-assisted fake porn. All the tools one needs to make these videos are free, readily available, and accompanied with instructions that walk novices through the process. These are developments we and the experts we spoke to warned about in our original article. They have arrived with terrifying speed.

History of Deepfakes

According to Bregler at al. ( https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=258734.258880 ) The manipulation of video and audio files using someone else’s visual and audio footprint originated as a 1997 project, Video Rewrite, which modified existing video footage of a person speaking to depict that person mouthing the words contained in a different audio track. It was the first system to fully automate this kind of facial reanimation, and it did so using machine learning techniques to make connections between the sounds produced by a video’s subject and the shape of the subject’s face.

In addition, Nick Statt at ( https://bit.ly/36nJal4 )  argues that researchers at tech companies and in academia are trying to develop deepfake-detecting software. Other researchers are unearthing the extent to which a convincing deepfake can be generated and purposed using even smaller amounts of data. In other words, deepfakes are here, and they can be dangerous. We’re just going to need better tools to sort out the real from the fake.

Key Terminology regarding Deepfakes

From academic research and the possibilities of algorithm development to fraudulent actions and applications development with the intention to deceive it only requires motive, the reason for committing the crime, means, the tools or methods used to commit the crime; and opportunity, the occasion that presents itself to allow the crime to take place.

The internet provides endless opportunities across the globe for aspiring culprits to put their intentions in practice for professional, monetary or even social and political gain. The level of expertise required can be minimal, since the use of smartphone applications developed in countries with less safety regulated environments, can achieve professional results that fulfil their aim. Finally, the abundance of personal, professional or even social information available online affords unlimited opportunities to anybody who is willing and has time in his hands.

Although fraud may be the primary concern of all dealing with the possibility of a scam, the roots of the problem go far deeper: The effects on credibility and authenticity. The simple presence of deepfakes makes classifying videos either as satirical or genuine, increasingly difficult. Artificial Intelligence researcher Alex Champandard has said “People should know how fast things can be corrupted with deepfake technology, and that the problem is not a technical one, but rather one to be solved by trust in information and journalism (https://bit.ly/348zZnf ).

As news consumers we may be facing a reality far distanced from realism. In other words, we may be facing a constant need to doubt the basic truth and validity of content. Worse, “the primary pitfall is that humanity could fall into an age in which it can no longer be determined whether a medium’s content corresponds to the truth”, according to Champandard.

Similarly, computer science associate professor Hao Li of the University of Southern California states that “Deepfakes created for malicious use, such as fake news, will be even more harmful if nothing is done to spread awareness of deepfake technology (https://wbur.fm/2RNFwNJ). Li predicts that genuine videos and deepfakes will become indistinguishable in as soon as half a year, as of October 2019, due to rapid advancement in artificial intelligence and computer graphics”.

The importance of News Consumerism.

The digital landscape has led to a new pattern of behavior towards news which is linked to the behavior developed by the increasing number of consumer goods. Consumerism is defined as the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable;  consumerism is also  identified as the preoccupation with and the inclination toward the buying of consumer goods (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consumerism).

The abundance of social media and their voracious appetite for posts has changed our approach to news from appreciation to avarice. More news is never enough. The metaphor of News Consumerism, that can be referenced, deals with the idea that both the increase as well as the exposure to a greater number of news items is intellectually desirable. Furthermore, following the metaphor, News Consumerism is to be recognized as the preoccupation with and the inclination toward the exposure to news items from any source available at any possible point in time for any reason.

Overexposure to news can lead to an overdose effect. The prescribed dosage of an agent is meant to have a therapeutic effect. Excessive quantity or amount of any agent can have a lethal or toxic effect quite contrary to the one desired. Overindulgence can happen when either directly seeking the latest posts on specialist news sights, or when indirectly browsing repeatedly through social media of personal or professional aquaitances.

As a result, News Consumerism is to be treated with caution to avoid symptoms of addiction and dependence. This leads us to the necessary background of skills and abilities needed to support restrain.

The importance of News Literacy?

Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that lets us communicate effectively and make sense of the world. https://literacytrust.org.uk/information/what-is-literacy/ . Lacking vital literacy skills holds a person back at every stage of their life. As a child they won’t be able to succeed at school, as a young adult they will be locked out of the job market, and as a parent they won’t be able to support their own child’s learning. This intergenerational cycle makes social mobility and a fairer society more difficult.

Matthew Lynch identifies 13 Types of Literacy (https://www.theedadvocate.org/what-are-the-13-types-of-literacy/): Digital Literacy, Media Literacy, Recreational Literacy, Disciplinary Literacy, Civic Literacy, Multicultural Literacy, Information Literacy, Functional Literacy, Content Literacy, Early Literacy, Developmental Literacy, Balanced Literacy, Critical Literacy.

Elia Powers (https://bit.ly/2PFmAxY ) defines news literacy as: “The use of critical thinking skills to judge the reliability of news reports and news sources, a skill which should be taught in school.  News literacy is a branch of media literacy. While media literacy courses tend to focus on the impact of media messages on society and individuals, Stony Brook’s news literacy course focuses more narrowly on the role of the press in society. Dean Miller, director of the three-year-old Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook, also teaches the course on news literacy.

Is news literacy to be considered as a separate discipline or as an offshoot of media literacy. The question is only valid to the extent that the definition of news literacy is still evolving, according to Miller. He thinks of it primarily as acquiring “the critical thinking skills to be able to create and consume credible information.”

Schneider has created a list of key skills and concepts that students in news literacy courses – and eventually news consumers – should master (https://bit.ly/2RMtZhD ):

The key skills for “Students” – and news consumers – are:  “ the need to: 1) recognize the difference between journalism and other kinds of information, and between journalists and other information purveyors; 2) in the context of journalism, recognize the difference between news and opinion; 3) in the context of news stories, analyze the difference between assertion and verification and between evidence and inference; 4) evaluate and “deconstruct” news reports based on the quality of evidence presented and the reliability of sources; and 5) distinguish between news media bias and audience bias.

The key concepts include the ability to 1) appreciate the power of reliable information and the importance of a free flow of information in a democratic society; 2) understand the nature and mission of the American press and its relationship with the government; compare and contrast this to other systems around the world; 3) understand how journalists work and make decisions and why they make mistakes; 4) understand how the digital revolution and the structural changes in the news media can affect news consumers; and 5) understand why news matters and why becoming a more discerning news consumer can change their own lives and the life of the country.

Always remember the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Distrust and caution are the parents of security”.

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George Drivas

George Drivas

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I consider myself as innovative and strategic, motivational, discreet and amicable, thorough and effective. Sometimes I think I try too hard!

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