DeepFake: Darkly entertaining or deeply disturbing?

Jake Lee Green
Kern Valley Sun

A seemingly straight forward video from former President Barack Obama plays out over an assumed press release to Americans. However, as the video goes on we find that there is something slightly odd and not all too appropriate about the video. In fact, as the video draws towards an end we find that Jordan Peele, one half of the writing duo of the Comedy Central show Key and Peele, is mimicking Obama’s voice and using a technology known as DeepFake to make it appear as though it truly is the former president. As it turns out, DeepFake is a not so recent technology. The program utilizes face mapping to overlay the facial structure of a chosen person onto another’s. It’s hard to catch as well.

Within the movie industry computer generated technology have given us wonderful visuals in the digital age where pin point mapping allows editors to fill in the deduced parts of an actor’s body. Whether it be placing Forrest Gump next to President Kennedy by splicing scenes out of a green screen backdrop, or creating fully realistic digital versions of comic book heroes, most of us can say we’ve seen a digital manipulation in our lives. However, it seems that with the advancement of technologies in digital cinematography we are coming to a point where the use of these technologies are not always coming with an intention to entertain. With the technology trickling down into cell phones through apps like Snapchat, and Instagram, we are truly finding ourselves in a time of necessary vigilance.

Snapchat in particular uses a pinpoint system which was a technology acquired by the company from a Ukrainian based outfit by the name of ‘Looksery’. The filters that tend to be used by mostly younger generations attach themselves to those points which were made by mapping hundreds of model’s faces and data basing them. The filters set upon those points create a mask for the user to engage in different themes. Essentially, this is how DeepFake has made its way into the application market. Using similar techniques and are then coupled with the advent of artificial intelligence. Programmers of applications like DeepFake train the computer to do the work for the user. This allows the computer to update the pin points of the mask on the face at lightning speeds. Given the leeway that programs like these give to the user, government agencies are noticing the use of them by people’s with more sinister intentions.

Currently the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA for short, is looking into millions of fraudulent DeepFake cases. Keeping a close eye on this technology is one of the agencies biggest case files. From the suburban teenager to the Chinese hacker the problems arising with DeepFake are worsening. The media in particular is having the biggest issues. DeepFake is essentially entering into more manageable applications that apply different face swaps easier and with more clarity. DARPA claims the scalability of the technologies combatting these fakes are becoming more difficult to create. This poses a problem because what happens is the line between reality and faked news becomes a possibility. Not all is lost though. Researchers for DARPA at the University of Colorado are making these DeepFake’s in order to study them for use in spotting them in media sources.

Whether you sit on the side of the fence of conspiracy or just plain fun when it comes to these applications, DeepFake is here to stay. While, the movie industry uses its own versions of the programming to provide entertainment and awe in its audiences, there will be less entertaining issues that arise from the use of DeepFake.