Bleak Fate: Deepfakes offer a grim future where nothing can be trusted

March 4, 2021
Rebecca LaChance
Deep fake of Tom Cruise screenshot from TikTok

Deepfakes are a relatively new phenomenon, but they’re becoming ever more prevalent as our social worlds migrate further and further online. If you haven’t come across one before, the concept is pretty much what it says on the tin – fake videos of real people. They’re often created with the intention of humor, but the dangerous truth is that, when well made, they are difficult to discern from reality.

Celebrity deepfakes, like the TikTok account @deeptomcruise which has recently gone viral, seem particularly insidious for famous people and public figures whose lives are already under vicious scrutiny. While the account was briefly suspended, it is now back up and running and TikTok has yet to clarify whether such deepfakes violate their terms of service.

Some people suggest that all celebrities should have verified accounts on any social network, if only to clearly separate themselves from the frauds. But for the rest of us, without the means to earn that verified blue tick, how do we defend ourselves if this tech is used against us?

All over social media people are discussing the very frightening possibility of this technology being used in the not-too-distant future by governments, terrorist groups, and more – with potentially devastating consequences. In a world as consumed with worry about “fake news” as with the social media networks that peddle it, we stand faced with yet another technological threat to the very core of our understanding of trust.

When it’s this easy to create totally realistic fake video, how can we know what’s true?

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