The Deepfake Danger Is Less About the Videos Themselves

Sam Gregory of Witness for Wired:

In our discussions, journalists and human rights defenders, including those from Myanmar, described fearing the weight of having to relentlessly prove what’s real and what is fake. They worried their work would become not just debunking rumors, but having to prove that something is authentic. Skeptical audiences and public factions second-guess the evidence to reinforce and protect their worldview, and to justify actions and partisan reasoning. In the US, for example, conspiracists and right-wing supporters dismissed former president Donald Trump’s awkward concession speech after the attack on the Capitol by claiming “it’s a deepfake.”

The TikTok videos of “Tom Cruise” are certainly impressive and terrifying, but they are also an edge case. If you have not yet seen them, I recommend checking them out. I think Gregory nails the real concern of deepfake videos: it is the paranoia, more than the videos themselves. It is the mere presence of deepfakes as a concept that is concerning, because it is yet another piece of technobabble that can manifest in the wrong hands as propaganda and conspiracy theory mongering.

Sure is bizarre to be living at a time when we are, as humankind, more scientifically literate than ever before while increasingly doubting the reality in front of our very eyes. Last year, Kirby Ferguson put together a terrific video about magical thinking. The subject matter is kind of heavy, but it is worth a watch for capturing the strangeness of this time.