With videos emerging this week of both party leaders lavishing each other with gushing praise, Boris and Jeremy could be judged to be the best of friends. However, you would be mistaken. Deepfakes - the spoofing of imagery and voice using digital technology to create realistic-seeming video and audio of individuals doing or saying things they never did - have been lifted from Hollywood and can now be created in the comfort of your own home.
The technology for deepfakes is not new; if you have watched any of the recent Star Wars films, you will have seen the deceased Carrie Fisher putting in a stellar performance thanks to the use of similar techniques.
As processing speeds and graphics cards become more advanced, and the programming code becomes ever more distributed (and more user friendly), we will need to become increasingly sceptical of the videos we see online and in our newsfeeds.
The implications of this are far ranging. Scandals already abound around the use of this technology.
Pornographers pioneered its malign use in the depiction of celebrities in compromising positions, and soon it will be the turn of politicians and business leaders.
The recent videos of Boris and Jeremy were produced to raise awareness of the technology and its potential uses, rather than as a real attempt to dupe the voter - but this provides a useful example of how such content can shape and warp the news agenda, even when, as in this case, the audio and video is some-way-short of Hollywood standards.
‘Only Corbyn can make Britain great again': Eerie video showing PM endorse Corbyn - New European
Jeremy Corbyn ‘backs Boris Johnson for Prime Minister’- The Sun
Each story goes on to explain the nature of the video as a deepfake but for those time-starved commuters scanning their news feeds it is plausible that they might miss the main point of the story and the wrong message lands.
You will probably watch the video and comfort yourself that you would not be fooled and that ‘the voice was clearly not them’. But that is a simple fix, and one ably demonstrated by a fraudster that used AI voice technology to defraud a business in August 2019 out of $243,00 by impersonating the CEO on the phone. You might watch such a video on your computer screen and think that the quality is insufficient to fool anyone – but think about the reduced size and quality of the videos we watch on far smaller screens, and the potential impact of these videos if reduced to thumbnails and half-seen mid-scroll.
This is the new normal.
But deepfakes are only one tool in the armoury of disinformation frequently used by nation states, terrorists, criminals, activist and unscrupulous competitors. The greatest damage will be done at key points in your financial or investment calendar. Corporations and senior leaders need a new playbook to tackle this growing menace to truth and trust.
For more information on how to be on guard against digital disinformation, please contact: Duncan Gallagher, Duncan.firstname.lastname@example.org