We are only at the beginning of the potential use of “deepfakes” as a weapon of “reputational destruction”, the latest addition to a fast growing digital arsenal.
Deefakes are videos in which spoken words are changed to make it look like someone has said something they never did. Or faces superimposed to show a person performing sex acts they never took part in. Deepfakes may be used to create fake celebrity pornographic videos or revenge porn, or create fake news and malicious hoaxes. (Wikipedia)
It is a relatively new phenomenon with the first examples of deepfake pornography surfacing on the Internet in 2017. However, the manipulation potential of deepfakes is enormous. So much so american Lawmakers warn of ‘deepfake’ videos ahead of 2020 election. And a new discipline is emerging: video forensics which aims at detecting them using #AI which – ironically – is being used in the first place to create them.
“The combination of photo-real synthesis of facial imagery with a voice impersonator or a voice synthesis system, would enable the generation of made-up video content that could potentially be used to defame people or to spread so-called ‘fake-news’,” writes Michael Zollhöfer at his Stanford blog. “Currently, the modified videos still exhibit many artifacts, which makes most forgeries easy to spot. It is hard to predict at what point in time such ‘fake’ videos will be indistinguishable from real content for our human eyes.”
If we look ahead and turn our attention away from celebrities and politicians and we think about corporations, we will quickly realize they represent a significant threat. With advances in AI, their production will become easier, faster and accessible to a larger audience. And sooner rather than later we will detect their first use.
Take a minute to imagine a concerted effort to attack a company and its executives with the aim of destabilizing it and destroying its reputation. Or perhaps simply used to manipulate stock prices. Or spread fake news more effectively. Think about the potential consequences of a deepfake in which a CEO admits to corporate wrongdoings, sexual abuse, consumer fraud…
If we take the digital realm as a whole, there is no doubt it represents today the biggest concentration of threats, and hence of potential crisis, not only for companies but for society at large. Ramsonware, trojan horses, malicious viruses, cyber warfare and deepfakes. An arsenal of weapons available to disrupt, destroy, cause economic and reputational damage, discredit, sabotage and spy.
The first step of crisis management is preparation. The sooner companies recognize the destructive potential of these new threats – and start planning for them – the better.
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