Back in 2018, former US President Barack Obama said that “Killmonger was right,” referring to the villain in “Black Panther.” He also said that conservative US politician Ben Carson “is in the sunken place” and that “President Trump is a total and complete dipshit.”
Except President Obama didn’t really say any of these things – comedian and filmmaker Jordan Peele did. But with the help of artificial intelligence and a pretty good impression of the president, it really looks like Obama is saying it himself. The clip wasn’t meant to be a scandal, but instead, it was a PSA that we can’t always trust what we see and hear these days.
Flash forward four years, and these deepfakes (the term for AI-adjusted videos that make people look like they’re doing or saying things they’re not) are becoming even more popular. On TikTok, videos of Tom Cruise playing the guitar or taking bathroom mirror pics shirtless have become popular. And on “America’s Got Talent,” a long-running reality TV contest in the US, Elvis Presley appeared on screen to sing to the audience, with the actual singers sitting just backstage.
Now that they’re getting better, though, it’s time to buckle down on the ethics for this tech. It doesn’t take a giant leap to imagine people using it to defame someone or spark outrage by making it look like a political figure said things they didn’t say.
According to Tom Graham, one of the co-founders of deepfake company Metaphysic, “The most salient point is around consent.” But he recognizes this has issues, too, saying, “How do you withhold that consent in a virtual environment where suddenly someone has your data, and it doesn’t take a huge amount of data in order to create a synthetic representation of you?”
There’s no golden bullet for this kind of problem, but it’s probably safe to say that the “move fast and break things” model could be particularly explosive in this industry. However it goes, though, we should all get used to second-guessing everything we see on the internet.