The Increasing Accessibility Of Deepfakes Raises New Concerns About The Abuse Of This Technology

A viral meme using deepfakes led Grace Windheim, part of a new group of online content creators who are toying with deepfakes, to research how to make deepfakes. She discovered that it was super easy to make one and totally free, and within a day, Windheim created a YouTube tutorial to make deepfakes. In a video which was published on August 4, and has more than 464,00 views on YouTube, she said that making a deepfake and overlaying audio is not very complicated. As deepfakes grows increasingly accessible, it raises concerns about the potential abuse of this technology.

It is worth noting that this technology has already been used to harass women by non-consensually swapping the faces of those women into porn clips. While deepfakes created for memes are relatively harmless, they might not stay this way for long. According to Windheim, there is a fine line between using this technology for entertainment and using it for harm.

Grace Windheim works as a creator as Kapwing, a San Francisco-based startup, and she runs a YouTube channel as part of her job. In early August of this year, Windheim came across a specifically viral search term on Google Trends. Three of the top five search queries were related to ‘Baka Mitai deepfake meme,’ which was based on a video of a YouTube lip-synching to Baka Mitai, a Japanese game song. Several people had used this video to create deepfakes of everyone from Thanos to Obama singing this song. People were using a deepfake algorithm which comes from a research paper presented at NeurIPS in 2019.

This algorithm lets you take any video of the face of an individual, and use that video to animate an image of someone else’s face with just a few lines of code. Several YouTube content creators have made tutorials using the same copy-pasted algorithm, however, many are teaching users how to make ‘any’ kind of deepfake. Moreover, one tutorial even teaches its audience how to make deepfakes on a smartphone.

@lemonjezus i did one with @afiqhakim this time hope y’all enjoy! ##deepfake ##pokimane ##xqc ##drdisrespect ##tsmmyth ##greekgodx ##tyler1 ##sodapoppin ##ludwig ##tfue
♬ All TikTok Mashup (JVKE - Upside Down) - imjakelawson

Deepfake memes are appearing on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. It is worth noting that the #deepfake in the TikTok app has racked up over 120 million views. Although hyper-realistic deepfakes are currently challenging and expensive to create, the rate at which this technology is advancing, it seems that deepfakes that are more realistic and easy to create are around the corner.

This technology isn’t inherently bad, and artists, educators, and others have already used deepfakes as a powerful tool for creative expression. For instance, in February of this year, Time magazine used this technology to re-create the experience of Martin Luther King Jr. delivering the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in VR. Eventually, regulators will have to define what is the appropriate use of this technology and what could lead to harm.

Windheim is currently relying on her own judgment, and she read up on the implications of this technology before posting her video on YouTube. She said that they are never intending their products to help people spread misleading information. Windheim and her colleagues finally decided on some ground rules including that they would only focus their tutorial on creating particular memes.

Read next: Microsoft Introduces New Technologies To Fight Deepfakes
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