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Deepfake Technology

Context:

The Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s cyberspace watchdog, is rolling out new regulations, to be effective from January 10, to restrict the use of deep synthesis technology and curb disinformation.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Deep synthesis
  2. What is a deepfake?
  3. China’s new policy to curb deepfakes
  4. Measures to address the threats related to deepfakes
  5. Way forward

About Deep synthesis

  • Deep synthesis is defined as the use of technologies, including deep learning and augmented reality, to generate text, images, audio and video to create virtual scenes.
  • One of the most notorious applications of the technology is deepfakes, where synthetic media is used to swap the face or voice of one person for another.
  • Deepfakes are getting harder to detect with the advancement of technology.

What is a deepfake?

  • Deepfakes are a compilation of artificial images and audio put together with machine-learning algorithms to spread misinformation and replace a real person’s appearance, voice, or both with similar artificial likenesses or voices.
  • It can create people who do not exist and it can fake real people saying and doing things they did not say or do.
Background:
  • The term deepfake originated in 2017, when an anonymous Reddit user called himself “Deepfakes.”
  • This user manipulated Google’s open-source, deep-learning technology to create and post pornographic videos.
  • The videos were doctored with a technique known as face-swapping.
  • The user “Deepfakes” replaced real faces with celebrity faces.

Where can it be used?

  • It is used to generate celebrity porn videos, produce fake news, and commit financial fraud among other wrongdoings.
  • It is now being used for nefarious purposes like scams and hoaxes,election manipulation, social engineering, automated disinformation attacks, identity theft and financial fraud.
    • Deepfake technology has been used to impersonate former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and Hollywood celebrity Tom Cruise.

China’s new policy to curb deepfakes

  • The policy requires deep synthesis service providers and users to ensure that any doctored content using the technology is explicitly labelled and can be traced back to its source.
  • The regulation also mandates people using the technology to edit someone’s image or voice, to notify and take the consent of the person in question.
  • When reposting news made by the technology, the source can only be from the government-approved list of news outlets.
  • Deep synthesis service providers must also abide by local laws, respect ethics, and maintain the “correct political direction and correct public opinion orientation”, according to the new regulation.

Why has such a policy been implemented?

  • China’s cyberspace watchdog said it was concerned that unchecked development and use of deep synthesis could lead to its use in criminal activities like online scams or defamation. 
  • The country’s recent move aims to curb risks that might arise from activities provided by platforms which use deep learning or virtual reality to alter any online content.
  • If successful, China’s new policies could set an example and lay down a policy framework that other nations can follow.

Measures to address the threats related to deepfakes:

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.

Media literacy:

  • Media literacy for consumers and journalists is the most effective tool to combat disinformation and deepfakes.
  • Media literacy efforts must be enhanced to cultivate a discerning public. As consumers of media, we must have the ability to decipher, understand, translate, and use the information we encounter.
  • Even a short intervention with media understanding, learning the motivations and context, can lessen the damage. Improving media literacy is a precursor to addressing the challenges presented by deepfakes

Legislative regulations:

  • Meaningful regulations with a collaborative discussion with the technology industry, civil society, and policymakers can facilitate disincentivising the creation and distribution of malicious deepfakes.

Technological solutions:

  • We also need easy-to-use and accessible technology solutions to detect deepfakes, authenticate media, and amplify authoritative sources.

Way forward:

Deepfakes can create possibilities for all people irrespective of their limitations by augmenting their agency. However, as access to synthetic media technology increases, so does the risk of exploitation. Deepfakes can be used to damage reputations, fabricate evidence, defraud the public, and undermine trust in democratic institutions. To counter the menace of deepfakes, we all must take the responsibility to be a critical consumer of media on the Internet, think and pause before we share on social media, and be part of the solution to this infodemic.

-Source: The Hindu


February 2023
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