Cover photo screenshot from YouTube/Egor Zakharov. 5-minute read.
It used to require a lot of time, money, and skill to create convincing deepfake videos—but not anymore.
Realistic looking video renderings are no longer exclusive to high-budget sci-fi movies. In fact, recent advances in artificial intelligence make doctoring and creating fake footage easier than ever.
In fact, all you need is one picture.
New study on deepfake tech
The experts at Samsung’s AI Center in Moscow recently teamed up with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology to develop a research paper that demonstrates how fake videos can be generated using just one image—and the implications of where this tech could lead are concerning, to say the least.
Researcher Egor Zakharov published a video to demonstrate just how easy it is for a computer to take as little as one or a small handful of images to transform them into what he calls a “talking head model.”
“Effectively, the learned model serves as a realistic avatar of a person,” Zakharov shares in the video.
Zakharov notes that adding more images helps create models of “higher realism and better identity preservation.” However, his examples of fake talking footage created from just a single image of a person are surprisingly and eerily convincing.
Near the end of the video, Zakharov even creates living portraits using a single piece of art—like the Mona Lisa springing to life, appearing as an actual moving character.
It would be cool if this kind of technology weren’t being used for such horrifying things.
Where advances in deepfake technology could lead
USA Today recently shared, “Crafting realistic humanoids in video games or CGI movies used to take years of training, hundreds of people, and millions of dollars. But that’s just not the case anymore. Today, with just a little facial mapping and powerful artificial intelligence, these sophisticated machine-learning techniques are becoming accessible to people who don’t necessarily have massive moviemaking budgets.
And as deepfakes spread across online platforms, many have crept onto the darker parts of the internet. Famous singers and actors have been victims to pornographic deepfakes… Deepfakes could very well be used against the U.S. by hostile actors. Elections, political campaigns, and national security could all be at risk.”
National security expert Andy Grotta added, “You can sort of see a trajectory develop where, within a year or two, it’s going to be really hard for a person to distinguish between a real video and a fake video.”
And according to Hany Farid, professor of computer science at Dartmouth College, “Until recently, we have largely been able to trust audio and video recordings,” but advances in machine learning have democratized—or made accessible to everyone—tools for creating sophisticated, compelling fake footage.
It doesn’t take a far stretch of the imagination to see the impact this tech could have on individual lives and society as a whole.
Imagine a world where discerning between what’s real and what’s fake is virtually impossible, and where explicit content of any person can be generated on-demand and distributed to the masses.
Now consider the fact that this reality is already well underway.
The growing demand for AI and deepfakes
The demand for AI content is only growing.
Take, for example, this computer-generated Instagram influencer who interacts with her 1.6 million followers. She’s fake and her followers know it, but they continue to like, comment, and DM as if she’s a real person. Or this Chinese news agency that’s testing out AI news anchors to replace human staff.
The line between virtual and reality is becoming more and more blurred, and the growth in demand for deepfake porn is no exception. Today, many consumers don’t just want made-to-order porn of AI characters, but custom content of someone they know.
The ability to digitally manipulate photos isn’t a new concept. But earlier this year the DeepNude app hit the market—making the AI technology used to create nude deepfake images available to anyone with a smartphone. That’s right—any user could upload an existing image of someone and see it transformed into pornographic content instantaneously.
In only a matter of months, over 500,000 users downloaded the DeepNude app. However, less than a day after the app started receiving widespread attention last month, its creators announced it was shutting down.
In a tweet, the team behind DeepNude shared, “We never thought it would become viral and we would not be able to control the traffic. We greatly underestimated the request…The probability that people will misuse it is too high… Surely some copies of DeepNude will be shared on the web, but we don’t want to be the ones who sell it.”
Their conclusion was that “the world is not yet ready for DeepNude,” implying that there will be a time in the future when the software is available to the masses. It’s only a matter of time.
Stop the demand for deepfake porn
As technology continues to advance, deepfakes will only become easier to generate and more difficult to detect. The fact that this tech has already been created and that so many people show interest is especially concerning.
Consuming porn can be an escalating behavior and it’s clear that, at least for some, fantasies with strangers are no longer enough. Many want to custom order porn with a familiar face—like a favorite Hollywood actor, coworker, ex, family member, or anyone on social media— and this no longer requires a big budget or an experienced AI specialist.
Today, there’s really no limit to who can be exploited and consumed as porn. The porn industry continues to capitalize on advances in tech and make deepfake porn available to the masses—no matter who’s hurt in the process.
Our takeaway? Know what’s possible, and decide for yourself how much you want to share online, and what to believe when you see something questionable.
But regardless of if your Instagram is set to private or not, together, we can shed light on the reality of exploitation in the industry, and stop the demand that fuels the supply for deepfakes porn.