The World of Deepfakes – How can Deepfakes Impact Elections?

The World of Deepfakes – How can Deepfakes Impact Elections?

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The World of Deepfakes – How can Deepfakes Impact Elections

The 2019 Lok Sabha elections in India are around the corner and are much-anticipated due to multiple reasons. The speculation comes from the ruling and opposition parties, and also the general public vying for progressive changes. However, with the advancement of technology and social media, conducting a ‘fair’ election is a tricky business these days. Allegedly, social media influenced the decision of voters in the 2016 US Presidential Elections. Now, another menace of morphed videos, known as deepfakes, have cropped up. So what are deepfakes? And, how can deepfakes impact elections? How are deepfake videos created? Get the answers here.

What are Deepfakes?

The word ‘Deepfake’ comes from the combination of ‘deep learning’ and ‘fake’. It is a human image synthesis technique based on Artificial Intelligence used to superimpose images/videos for creating look-alike ones. The technique behind Deepfake videos is Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN).

The GAN technique is a fairly advanced technique, thus making deepfake videos and images harder to differentiate and verify. The concept gained momentum when a deepfake video created by BuzzFeed showing Barack Obama mocking Donald Trump became viral.

The video released early in 2018 intended to showcase the power of such morphed videos to the public. Politically motivated deepfake videos and images can have a serious impact on voters in the run-up to elections. So, can deepfakes impact elections impending in India? Yes, possible!

How Does the Deepfake Technology Work?

Deepfakes are the result of an Artificial Intelligence-based technique called Generative Adversarial Network (GAN). A complex system of feeding data to two neural networks – the generator and the discriminator, forms the core of this technology.

Scratching your heads? Here’s the explanation in the simplest form.

One feeds genuine data (known as training data) to both the neural networks and gives them separate tasks.

The generator produces morphed outputs such as videos, voices or handwriting by mimicking the training data. The discriminator then compares this output with the same training data to determine if it’s real. In case of a mismatch, it sends it back to the generator which tries to create an output closer to the original.
This back and forth passing of data continues until the output is indistinguishable from the original. The result? A perfectly doctored video or image!!!

Evolution of Deepfakes – A New Method of Propagating Misinformation

The menace of Deepfakes first emerged when Reddit users exploited the Deepfake technology for pornographic malpractices. They posted videos by morphing the faces of adult entertainers with those of celebrities like Maisie Williams and Scarlett Johansson. Furthermore, miscreants have used the Deepfake technology to insert actor Nicolas Cage’s face into movies such as Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Rises.

Deepfakes continue to be an insidious problem as creating them requires no special photo-editing skills or knowledge of AI. Crooks use Google’s open-source AI platform TensorFlow to build applications for creating deepfake videos. A devil’s brain can easily install and train a neural network to generate a believable fake video.

Deepfake videos were mostly created for revenge pornography but are now permeating to other sectors such as politics. They have become the new means for electoral manipulation, blackmail and fomenting conflicts through the propagation of misinformation.

Use of Deepfake Technology

One can put the ability of the GAN technology to synthesize media and imitate data to good use. This includes applications of the Deepfake technology in animation, photo editing, and in healthcare. In healthcare, one can leverage it to improve the quality of medical images and combat the lack of patient data.
Conversely and adversely, miscreants are using the Deepfake technology in dangerous and unethical ways. Miscreants are using GANs to create morphed adult videos using celebrity faces, and fake politically motivated videos. Worse still, the GAN technology is also misused for forging fingerprints and other biometric data.

At this pace, one can well imagine the havoc that can wreak as such malicious applications grow larger in scale!!!

Can Deepfakes Impact Elections?

With the election season upon us, the least we wish to deal with are bogus AI-generated Deepfake videos. This sounds a warning bell for democracy as such politically motivated videos can have catastrophic ramifications on the election results.

Although creating high-resolution fake videos is still a costly and complicated process, it is easy to generate fairly plausible ones! The bad news is that the Deepfake technology is set to become more accessible and easier to use. Therefore, it is logical to imagine bad actors using this technology to create altered videos of politicians to influence their voter base. Perhaps, they can also create videos showing their supporters in a light that sparks conflict or divisiveness!

Political Consequences of Deepfakes

Fortunately, we haven’t yet heard of the use of Deepfake technology to create fake videos imitating political figures. At least, not in records yet! But the day is not far when this becomes detrimental to the democratic health of a nation.

We have seen umpteen instances in the past where fake news resulted in violent and often fatal consequences. Moreover, the scale of sharing and consumption of audiovisual content is more as compared to written news. With millions of video shares happening every minute, one can well imagine the scale of damage of a fake video. This can play a critical role in swaying public opinion in the run-up to elections.

So, will deepfakes impact elections in India? Well, let’s keep our fingers crossed and eyes open to ensure that it doesn’t!

Combating Propagation of Misinformation with Incognito Forensic Foundation (IFF Lab)

As citizens, we need to be more responsible in our role as propagators of news or online content. Take a moment to verify the authenticity of information before believing it or forwarding it to others. Be resilient to the practice of spreading misinformation and educate others about the consequences too.

Incognito Forensic Foundation (IFF Lab) is a digital forensics lab in Bangalore that assists law enforcement agencies on cybercrime investigations. It houses a state-of-the-art digital forensics laboratory equipped with the best-in-class cyber and digital forensics tools and software. By leveraging advanced technologies, IFF Lab can aid in the detection of morphed videos and combat the spread of misinformation.

Contact IFF Lab for Cybersecurity Assistance and Consultation.