Is There A Way To Spot Deepfakes?

As reality barrels closer and closer to a bizarre, Orwellian future where the truth is relative and digital technology more and more comes to stand in for what was once called living, a new type of synthetic media has surfaced in recent years which threatens to destroy our faith in what we once considered to be unequivocal proof of something having happened. Deepfakes are videos in which one person's face is swapped out for another, often so seamlessly that it can be difficult to tell that they have been altered.

While some deepfakes can be a good laugh — like the Nic Cage/Amy Adams deepfake or the one with Jennifer Lawrence talking about her favorite Bravo housewives using Steve Buscemi's face — some will truly make your skin crawl. In 2018, BuzzFeed posted a video of Barack Obama saying things a former President would be unlikely to say in public, but it turns out to be a deepfake with comedian and director Jordan Peele doing his voice. "We're entering an era in which our enemies can make anyone say anything at any point in time, even if they would never say those things," says the deepfaked ex-prez. The point of the video was to raise awareness about the technology and urge people to be vigilant with what they see online. But as deepfakes get better and better, how exactly does one learn to spot a deepfake? Let's take a look and see how to tell if you're watching a doctored video.

Yes, there are ways to tell if a video is a deepfake

While it may seem as though we're on an inexorable march toward a dark dystopia in which, as in George Orwell's sci-fi masterpiece 1984, "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, [and] Ignorance is Strength," all is not lost. Yet. As Slate points out, there are several ways to learn to spot deepfakes, something it called our "duty," in light of what the tech could mean for the future of democracy. The thing to do is watch a lot of deepfakes. They may seem difficult to identify at first, but you have to train your eye to recognize what one looks like in order to differentiate between doctored and actual footage. Some qualities Slate was able to point out included "face discolorations, lighting that isn't quite right, badly synced sound and video, or blurriness where the face meets the neck and hair." Also, pay attention to the voice. If your gut tells you something is off about it, that's probably because there is. Jordan Peele may do an excellent Obama impression, but it's still just an impression.

A great place to watch deepfakes is the subreddit r/GifFakes. There you'll find deepfakes that run the gamut of falsified footage, from the choppy and obviously faked to the frighteningly seamless. The Patreon account ctrl shift face is another great resource for training your eye. So go out there and learn to spot the deepfakes. Democracy is depending on us.