August 14, 2019

Why Are Deepfakes So Effective?

It's because we often want them to be true.

By Martijn Rasser

Public opinion shifts, skewed election results, mass confusion, ethnic violence, war. All of these events could easily be triggered by deep fakes—realistic seeming but falsified audio and video made with AI techniques. Leaders in government and industry, and the public at large are justifiably alarmed. Fueled by advances in AI and spread over the tentacles of social media, deep fakes may prove to be among the most destabilizing of forces humankind has faced in generations.

It will soon be impossible to tell by the naked eye or ear whether a video or audio clip is authentic. While propaganda is nothing new, the visceral immediacy of voice and image give deep fakes unprecedented impact and authority; as a result, both governments and industry are scrambling to develop ways to reliably detect them. Silicon Valley startup Amber, for example, is working on ways to detect even the most sophisticated altered video. You can imagine a day when we can verify the authenticity and provenance of a video by way of a digital watermark.

Developing deep fake detection technology is important, but it's only part of the solution. It is the human factor—weaknesses in our human psychology—not their technical sophistication that make deep fakes so effective. New research hints at how foundational the problem is.

After showing over 3,000 adults fake images accompanied by fabricated text, a group of researchers reached two conclusions. First, the more online experience and familiarity with digital photography one had, the more skeptical the person evaluating the information was. Second, confirmation bias—the tendency to frame new information to support our pre-existing beliefs—was a big factor in how people judged the veracity of the fake information.

Read the full article in Scientific American.

  • Commentary
    • Diálogo
    • June 17, 2021
    The Dangers of Potential Russian Counter-UAV Technology Exports to Latin America

    The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology has proliferated globally, resulting in myriad uses, both military and civilian. With the steady rise in non-military uses comes t...

    By Samuel Bendett

  • Commentary
    • June 2, 2021
    Sharper: Defense Tech

    The prevalence of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, the growing centrality of information warfare, and threats to traditional command and control are redefining combat in ...

    By Jennie Matuschak, Ainikki Riikonen & Anna Pederson

  • Video
    • May 13, 2021
    National Technology Strategy concept sparks bipartisan interest

    Government Matters spoke to Ainikki Riikonen about the need for a national technology strategy coordinate technology and innovation. Watch the full video from Government Matt...

    By Ainikki Riikonen

  • Commentary
    • May 7, 2021
    Democracy’s Digital Defenses

    In early 2021, the audio-only social media app Clubhouse allowed users in mainland China to enter chat rooms and talk freely to the world—including American journalists and pe...

    By Richard Fontaine & Kara Frederick

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia