Deepfakes and Blockchain

By May 10, 2020Ethereum
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When speaking at the Ethereal Virtual Summit this week, CEO and founder of DeepTrust Alliance, Kathryn Harrison faced a break in transmission as YouTube algorithms were triggered by her use of a still image from a deepfake video in her presentation and abruptly cut the feed.

Wow!!! My @EtherealSummit talk on the threats of deepfakes, which included ONLY a screenshot of a #deepfake video (credited to @YouTube) and ZERO actual #deepfake videos got shut down due to terms of service. My first time as a BANNED speaker. We need to #FIXFAKE @trust_deep https://t.co/fEY0BQh0EZ

— Kathryn Harrison (@KathrynHarrisn) May 8, 2020

Harrison, who is currently a team member at the Council on Foreign Relations and was previously Director of Global Product Management at IBM Blockchain, was attempting to use a still of Elon Musk from a parody of the movie A Space Odyssey to illustrate the effectiveness of the medium before talking on how the technology could be misused.

When the Laughter Stops

On the positive side, humour has indeed played a key role in driving experimentation with deepfakes.

Blockchain-based companies such as Alethea have been active in seeking to aid creators in monetising this type of AI-generated media within a clearly defined marketspace and prominent cryptocurrency advocates have been a rich-source of content.

Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin featured in a comic rendition of Pink Floyd’s classic 1973 song Money that also contained a pointed message about our current monetary system.

For those who prefer a more visual type of comedy, the head of Binance’s Changpeng Zhao – better known as CZ – was incorporated onto the body of Jet Li to show what an average trading day is like at the exchange.

Whether used to deploy a pointed message or purely to amuse, it is not just independent creators who can see the potential in employing deepfake AI.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the Head of visual effects at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Rob Bredow, said that while deepfakes are currently “…not quite photorealistic enough for us to put straight into a film… it definitely is pointing to what’s going to happen in the future. And it will actually change the way we do visual effects and create visual effects for the big screen…”

Bredow states there is constant innovation with the rendering with deepfake AI and “…all the little details that make a digital human look as believable as possible. Everything from the way the skin moves, as it interpolates between the different shapes, to the subtle details of how we continue to shade that skin. Every few months we have new breakthroughs in those areas.”

The path of development appears clear but it is the possible malicious implementation of the technology that concerns the DeepTrust Alliance.

Using mainstream media and academic sources to frame the arguments, the DeepTrust Alliance are raising awareness of the “…significant nuance and complexity at each layer of the issue.”

It was this topic, where laughter is replaced by concern, that Harrison was attempting to discuss in her presentation at the Ethereal Virtual Summit.

According to DeepTrust Alliance’s Deepfake, Cheapfake: The Internet’s Next Earthquake? report, mechanisms for countering malevolent behaviour under consideration are said to include blockchain-based registries of content and creators, hidden watermarks within film, embedded consent from individuals whose likeness is used in the creation of a deepfake, and access controls over tools to create synthetic media.

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