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Deepfakes On Demand 

Imagine Zooming with a coworker and discussing confidential information, only to discover the person on the other end of the call is actually a bad actor using deepfake tech to impersonate your colleague. 

A brighter hypothetical — imagine you need to quickly turn around content, so you generate high-quality photos or videos free of any privacy or copyright concerns at the click of a button. 

One more. Imagine your boss calls you about transferring funds, but it's really a scammer using deepfake tech to flawlessly imitate their voice. 

In the case of all three examples, there's a startup for that. In fact, the last scenario has already happened, conning one 
CEO out of $243,000. And the others are well on their way to reality. 

A service called MyHeritage brings photos of your deceased relatives “alive” by adding animations like blinking, nodding, head-bopping, and a number of other gestures.

Yes, there are interesting commercial use cases for deepfake tech. But be careful what you wish for. New innovations suggest a content creation boom is coming with speed, variety — and ambiguity — like we've never seen before. Potential opportunities aside, most associate the technology with malicious intent. Searches for “deepfake detection” have risen by 2,400% in the last two years according to Exploding Topics.

Throughout 2019, the number of deepfakes on the Internet grew from just 7.9K to 14.6K. But as of December 2020, 
60K deepfakes were created online. Scammers, nation-state hackers, political special-interest groups, and corporate rivals all stand to benefit from growing ease of access. The threat to individuals, businesses, and even national security is too big to ignore. 

As the tech continues to improve, so will the ability to mislead or create full-blown disinformation campaigns that endanger personal reputation and big business — from consumer trust to the bottom line. Communicators face a whole new set of considerations from head-on risks to an increasingly ever-present air of doubt surrounding news, statements, and personal attacks. 

So where do we go from here? Conventional practices for defense will not apply. The need for external partners with expertise in emerging detection tech will be key to getting ahead of the risk. As we continue to develop
collaborations against information disorder, deepfake detection will be core to our service mix. Like all new tech, deepfake opportunities for communicators continue to intrigue. But we must simultaneously anticipate and navigate dangers that await. 

Chris Perry

@cperry248

 
As always, if you find this newsletter valuable we would be grateful if you encouraged others to sign up by directing them here. 
What We're Reading
Media Intelligence
Lip-Syncing App Wombo Shows the Messy, Meme-Laden Potential of Deepfakes
By James Vincent, The Verge

Lip-Syncing app Wombo is far from the first app to use machine learning to create quick and fun deepfakes. But it’s the latest example of what will be an ever-more prominent trend, as deepfake apps become the latest meme templates, allowing users to mash together favorite characters, trending songs, choreographed dances, public figures, and so much more. The future of deepfakes will definitely be memeified.

Media Intelligence
This Deepfake "Amazon Workers" Are Sowing Confusion on Twitter. That's Not The Problem 
By Karen Hao, MIT Tech Review
Ahead of the landmark vote that aimed to create the formation of the first-ever labor union at a US-based Amazon warehouse, new Twitter accounts purporting to be Amazon employees started appearing. The profiles used deepfake photos as profile pictures and were tweeting some pretty laughable, over-the-top defenses of Amazon’s working practices. The accounts are likely just parodies, not part of a sinister corporate strategy, but they illustrate the kind of thing that could happen someday.
New Influence
America is Losing its Religion
By Bryan Walsh, Axios

Our recent research explores how decline in legacy institutions like religion has led to DIY movements like new forms of spirituality rooted in astrology, tarot cards, witchtok, and beyond. Now new surveys reveal that religious sentiments are being applied to non-religious causes." As religion decreasingly becomes something Americans practice, it may instead become another identity, subsumed into the ongoing culture wars."

Media Intelligence
More and More Women Are Facing the Scary Reality of Deepfakes
By Sophie Comptom, Vogue

Deepfakes are growing exponentially, doubling every six months. Of the 85,000 circulating online, 90% depict non-consensual porn featuring women. The videos may be fake, but their emotional impacts are real. Victims are left with multiple unknowns: Who made them? Who has seen them? How can they be contained? Because once something is online, it can reappear at any moment.

Media Intelligence
Want to Solve the Misinformation Crisis? We Already Have a Proven Solution at Our Fingertips
By Avi Tuschman, Fast Company

How has Wikipedia become “the largest bibliography in human history” and the “commons of public fact-checking”? The platform has three simple core content policies: Neutral Point of View, Verifiability, and No Original Research; yet it is also governed by hundreds of pages of policies and guidelines, which have become a veritable body of common law. Social media platforms can leverage Wikipedia’s strengths to similarly reduce misinformation. 

Media Intelligence
The Upside of Deepfake Technology

By James Kobielus, Information Week
Not all deepfakes are bad. The tech is increasingly popping up in socially beneficial applications, such as for photorealistic animation and live-action video post-production. Next-generation remote collaboration services are also using GANs and other AI techniques to improve the quality of rendered streams while improving the productivity of participants on these calls.
Polyculture
DoorDash Drivers Game Algorithm to Increase Pay
By Brody Ford, Bloomberg Businessweek
#DeclineNow is a 40,000-person online forum that provides a view into a type of labor activism tailored for the gig economy. DoorDash drivers are using the platform to encourage other "Dashers" to use the company's own software systems against is as a strategy for increasing pay. 
Emerging Technology
Scientists Developed A Clever Way to Detect Deepfakes by Analyzing Light Reflections in the Eyes
By Thomas Macaulay, The Next Web
Deepfakes are being used for a range of nefarious purposes, from disinformation campaigns to inserting people into porn, and the doctored images are getting harder to detect. A new AI tool provides a surprisingly simple way of spotting them: looking at the light reflected in the eyes.
Deep Take
Deepfakes in 2021
By Witness Media Lab

What is a deepfake? What forms of manipulation do they enable? How do they contribute to information disorder? How can we teach people to spot them? Witness Media Lab answers all these questions and more in their thorough backgrounder on the state of deepfakes in 2021. 

Copyright © 2021 Weber Shandwick



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