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Deepfakes And The End of Truth | Foreign Correspondent

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Published on 24 Jun 2021 / In News and Politics

A new generation of deepfake videos has got Hollywood excited ... and Washington worried. They’ve got the potential to change reality as we know it. Deepfakes are synthetic media created by Artificial Intelligence - technology that can make real people say and do things they never actually did.

This week, producer Mark Corcoran and reporter Hamish Macdonald do a deep dive into an emerging technology with explosive potential.

Until recently, deepfakes videos were mostly a staple of the dark web, their subject matter mainly pornography.

Now the technology is coming out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

In Bangkok, we meet a video effects expert with a reputation as one of the world's best deepfakers, who recently created a Tom Cruise TikTok video - that wasn’t Tom Cruise.

"I see the creative possibilities," deepfaker Chris tells Foreign Correspondent. "I think we’re coming to a point where everything is synthetic, especially in the movie industry."

"I think it's a good thing I created these videos, because now I'm raising awareness and (people) realize… this is real…it's coming!"

TikTok Tom was so convincing, he beat nearly all the latest deepfake detection technology, racking up millions of online views and becoming a global AI sensation.

But some US security experts see him as a harbinger of dangers to come, a technology that can now be weaponised; fake politicians declaring war...fake CEOs triggering the collapse of financial markets.

In Washington, we meet a former CIA officer, now a lawyer advising corporate America on how to combat the rising tide of digital disinformation.

"I think that we've only really started to scratch the surface of the bad things that can happen because of deepfakes," says Matt. "In the national security context, there’s no end to the nightmare scenario."

Recently the FBI issued an unprecedented warning to business and financial markets, declaring that that it was "…almost certain’ that in the next 12 – 18 months, (they) would be the victims of synthetic media (attacks)."

"I think deepfakes play into the hands of anybody, any state sponsor, any institution that wants to create confusion or deceive," says Mounir, a former US diplomat, once based in Syria, where he attempted to visually distil fact from fiction.

So will TikTok Tom, born of neural networks and machine learning, be harnessed and regulated, to entertain us? - or will he usher in a real-world version of Hollywood's "dystopian future"? Stay tuned.

About Foreign Correspondent:
Foreign Correspondent is the prime-time international public affairs program on Australia's national broadcaster, ABC-TV. We produce half-hour duration in-depth reports for broadcast across the ABC's television channels and digital platforms. Since 1992, our teams have journeyed to more than 170 countries to report on war, natural calamity and social and political upheaval – through the eyes of the people at the heart of it all.

Contributions may be removed if they violate ABC’s Online Terms of Use http://www.abc.net.au/conditions.htm (Section 3). This is an official Australian Broadcasting Corporation YouTube channel

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