The Future Is Now

On Wednesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, shared a video showing CNN’s Jim Acosta struggling with a White House intern to hold onto a microphone during a contentious exchange with Donald Trump. The video appears to have been doctored to make Acosta look more aggressive than he was during the exchange

Fact-checkers and other experts say the video, which was first shared by Paul Joseph Watson, a conspiracy theorist associated with the far-right website InfoWars, was deliberately sped up to make it look like Acosta chopped the woman’s arm with his hand. Authentic versions of the video that weren’t manipulated showed him slowly raising his hand, appearing to gesture to the president. The White House pulled Acosta’s press pass Wednesday, with Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeting that the White House will “not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video.”

In July I wrote a post about something called deepfakes. Deepfakes are videos that use a sophisticated type of software that makes it possible to superimpose one person’s face onto another’s body and manipulate voice recordings, creating fake videos that look and sound real.

“When you see video, you still think that you are peering into reality,” David Ryan Polgar, a tech ethicist, said. “The struggle now is that we are blurring the lines between reality and fiction. That’s extremely dangerous for our notions of truth, what happened, and what didn’t.”

It’s very telling that the American government is now disseminating doctored videos to spread its propaganda and to justify the president’s lies and abhorrent behavior. Authoritarian governments have a history of manipulating images and releasing propaganda films. But now it appears that our very own government, in the age of Trump, continues to deliberately create and promote false realities.

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear…

…or everything you see, either!

Did you hear about this?

New technology makes it alarmingly easy to make realistic videos of people saying and doing things they’ve never done.”

This is not fake news! It’s apparently true. There is new technology, a sophisticated type of software, that makes it possible to superimpose one person’s face onto another’s body and manipulate voice recordings, creating fake videos that look and sound real.

While Hollywood studios have long used computer-generated imagery (CGI) to create, for example, fleeting appearances of dead actors, the process was prohibitively expensive and laborious. Today, the technology, known as “deepfakes,” has improved so much so that highly realistic visual and audio fakery can be produced by anyone with a powerful home computer.

Apparently deepfakes technology has already sparked an explosion of fake pornography online, with Michelle Obama, Ivanka Trump, and Emma Watson among those most frequently victimized. (I can’t personally corroborate this, but I’m sure if you wish to, you can probably do a Google search for “deepfakes porn” and see for yourself.)

Fears are growing, however, over how else “deepfakes” videos could be used — from smearing politicians in elections to inciting major international conflict.

Earlier this year, BuzzFeed created a “public service announcement” warning of the technology’s dangers, with a deepfakes of former President Barack Obama voiced by the comedian and director Jordan Peele.

In that deepfakes, the fake Obama said, “We’re entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything.” To illustrate the point, the fake Obama goes on to call President Trump “a total and complete dipshit.”

This technology uses facial mapping and artificial intelligence to produce videos that appear so genuine it’s hard to spot the phonies. Lawmakers and intelligence officials worry that these deepfakes could be used to threaten national security or interfere in elections. Politicians of both parties are concerned that this high-tech way of putting words into someone’s mouth will become the latest weapon in disinformation wars against the United States and other Western democracies.

It kinda makes you question whether technology is a good thing or a bad thing, doesn’t it?