. Disinformation and hoaxes have evolved from mere annoyance to high stake warfare for creating social discord, increasing polarisation, and in some cases, influencing an election outcome. Deepfakes are a new tool to spread computational propaganda and disinformation at scale and with speed.
Access to commodity cloud computing, algorithms, and abundant data has created a perfect storm to democratise media creation and manipulation. Deepfakes are the digital media (video, audio, and images) manipulated using Artificial Intelligence. This synthetic media content is referred to as deepfakes.
The very first use case of malicious use of a deepfake was seen in pornography, inflicting emotional, reputational, and in some cases, violence towards the individual. Pornographic deepfakes can threaten, intimidate, and inflict psychological harm and reduce women to sexual objects. Deepfake pornography exclusively targets women.
Deepfakes can cause short- and long-term social harm and accelerate the already declining trust in news media. Such an erosion can contribute to a culture of factual relativism, fraying the increasingly strained civil society fabric. The distrust in social institutions is perpetuated by the democratising nature of information dissemination and social media platforms’ financial incentives. Falsity is profitable, and goes viral more than the truth on social platforms.
A deepfake can also aid in altering the democratic discourse and undermine trust in institutions and impair diplomacy. False information about institutions, public policy, and politicians powered by a deepfake can be exploited to spin the story and manipulate belief.
To defend the truth and secure freedom of expression, we need a multi-stakeholder and multi-modal approach. Collaborative actions and collective techniques across legislative regulations, platform policies, technology intervention, and media literacy can provide effective and ethical countermeasures to mitigate the threat of malicious deepfakes.
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