If you disdain the proliferation of fake news articles, you’ll find the coming of fake videos absolutely horrible.
Seeing is no longer believing. Refinements in video editing technology now make it possible to convincingly replace a speaker’s words on videos. University of Washington researchers produced a fake video of President Barack Obama. In their Synthesizing Obama project, researchers synched Obama’s lips in the video to edited audio from his previous speeches. It’s literally putting words in his mouth, altering the original commentary through editing, and changing the meaning. The video looks like he was actually saying the words – and it’s quite believable even now at the early stages of development.
Researchers at the Face2Face project at Stanford University have created technology that can change facial expressions on videos. So far, they’ve transformed facial expressions of political figures such as George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump by having hem mimic expressions of human actors.
Adobe’s Project Voco software can alter audio recordings to add words and phrases the speaker never uttered — in what sounds like the speaker’s voice.
The Technology will Advance Rapidly
The fakes can be spotted fairly easily – so far. The technologies will advance quickly, experts predict. Their costs will fall and they’ll become more widely available. Fake videos will become more common. Public relations professionals will need to worry about fake videos of their CEOs and other top executives issuing controversial and outlandish statements. They may also need to counter accusations that real news media videos of their executives were altered.
In addition, politicians, celebrities and business leaders will be able to claim that unaltered videos that show them in negative light are frauds.
Although video and programing experts have legitimate entertainment reasons for doctoring videos, the already-low trust in the media is bound to fall even more. Viewers will become more skeptical of videos when they realize they can be altered. Viewers once placed greater trust in photos, but their trust fell after Photoshop become available and they realized photos can be altered.
Ideas for Responding to Faked Videos
Francis Tseng, a co-publisher of The New Inquiry, a website on reality warping technology, advocates stronger, professional ethical standards for software developers. Other engineering occupations have robust ethical standards. Professionals learn about those standards through formal training programs.
“The boon of programming education is its decentralization and wide accessibility, but this also means people often pick up the skills without the necessary ethical frameworks to accompany them,” Teng told Business Insider.
Experts also urge tech and media companies to develop ways to detect altered videos.
“Social-media companies as well as the classical media companies have the responsibility to develop and setup fraud detection systems to prevent spreading / shearing of misinformation,” Justus Thies, who helped to develop Face2face, told Business Insider
Bottom Line: Fast-advancing technology can produce fake videos. Hoaxers will soon be able to place their own words into the mouths of speakers on videos. Public relations teams will have a new risk to manage.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.