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“Deep fake” as a weapon of the new generation

Although fake news may be really dangerous, there is a lesser-known new media which might pose a more serious threat: the deep fake.

December 16, 2020 - New Eastern Europe / Tomasz Kubiak - Hot Topics

Fake news has become a part of our everyday life. We see fake news on the internet, on television and in the newspapers. Many politicians use fake news to gain control over our opinions and therefore over our political preferences. Sometimes we do not even know that some information is fake. We formulate our personal opinions based on fake news. Today, many people use the term “fake news” referring to information which is not true. As it makes us less resistant to the dangerous impact of fake news, it is important to understand, what fake news actually is and what is the difference between fake news, false information and deep fakes.

Statements by politicians based on false information are not fake news. Fake news is a misleading and intentionally created information presented as news. It is often based on misinterpreted true information, which makes it even more difficult to recognise as a manipulated half-truth, and spreads disinformation, fear and hatred. As it is a dangerous instrument of propaganda and foreign powers’ intelligence, it might be perilous to confuse false information and fake news, and therefore to decrease societal resilience to threats connected with fake news.

Especially today, every information lives its own life. This is why it is so important to fight against fake news and their destructive effect. An excellent example of this destructive power of information and propaganda are The Protocols of the Meetings of Zion. This fabricated antisemitic text served as a political instrument of the Russian Tsars, who could not deal with the difficult economic situation of Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately, the impact of the text cost millions of Jews their lives. It gave rise to pogroms in tsarist Russia. Even the word “pogrom”, today used in English, has a Russian origin and comes from the Kishinev massacre in 1905 and hundreds of anti-Jewish riots in today’s Ukraine.

The Protocols were reprinted in the United States by Henry Ford and had a huge impact on support of the American elite for Adolf Hitler in early 1930’s. They were also used by the Nazis in 1938 as an excuse and “explanation” for the Kristallnacht. Despite the fact that it has been proven many times the Protocols were fabricated, many people still believe them and use them as an explanation for their antisemitism.

Although fake news may be really dangerous, there is a lesser-known new media which might pose a more serious threat: the deep fake. Deep fakes are synthetic media, in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s face, voice or/and even body. One of the most well-known examples of deep fake is a video presenting Barack Obama in which we can hear him using offensive and vulgar words describing Donald Trump. In fact, Barack Obama has never said it, the video looks very realistic. The video was made using high technology, which is able to analyse thousands of photos and voices in order to make a perfect deep fake. Some years ago it was a long and expensive process to produce a fake video with such good quality. Today, however, there are a number of apps which any one of us can download and use to produce a fake video. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of this fact and still tend to believe every photo and video they see, treating it as a sufficient evidence.

It is crucial for modern societies to understand the ubiquity of false information and fake news. It is not just a task for counterintelligence and politicians to counter them; every one of us should also be careful, read beyond, check the author and ask the experts. We should not believe every information we hear and see. Especially now, in the era of deep fakes.

This text was prepared based on the podcast titled „Technologie umożliwiają inwazję nieprawdy. Deep fake jest bronią nowej generacji” and translated and written by Tomasz Kubiak.

Funding for the translation and podcast series came from a grant by NATO’s Department of Public Diplomacy, in co-operation with the “Stratpoints” Foundation for Security and Development

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