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What To Do About Deepfakes

By Deborah G. Johnson, Nicholas Diakopoulos

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 64 No. 3, Pages 33-35

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Synthetic media technologies are rapidly advancing, making it easier to generate nonveridical media that look and sound increasingly realistic. So-called "deepfakes" (owing to their reliance on deep learning) often present a person saying or doing something they have not said or done. The proliferation of deepfakesa creates a new challenge to the trustworthiness of visual experience, and has already created negative consequences such as nonconsensual pornography,11 political disinformation,19 and financial fraud.3 Deepfakes can harm viewers by deceiving or intimidating, harm subjects by causing reputational damage, and harm society by undermining societal values such as trust in institutions.7 What can be done to mitigate these harms?

It will take the efforts of many different stakeholders including platforms, journalists, and policymakers to counteract the negative effects of deepfakes. Technical experts can and should play an active role. Technical experts must marshall their expertise—their understanding of how deepfake technologies work, their insights into how the technology can be further developed and used—and direct their efforts to find solutions that allow the beneficial uses of synthetic media technologies and mitigate the negative effects. While successful interventions will likely be interdisciplinary and sociotechnical, technical experts should play a role by designing, developing, and evaluating potential technical responses and in collaborating with legal, policy, and other stakeholders in implementing social responses.


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