Deepfakes, or Artificial Intelligence-generated synthetic videos, have been on the crisis communications periphery since 2017.
Although many deepfake videos have circulated imitating celebrities and politicians, it may seem unclear as of yet whether communications professionals in every industry should be prepared for a reputation nosedive as a result of the harmful tech—or whether deepfakes should only be of concern to those repping the rich and famous.
Impact of deepfakes on brand reputation
Henry Adjer Head of Threat Intelligence Deeptrace
Per Google Trends, the term deepfake made its way into the mainstream in February 2018, when Pornhub and Twitter announced they would ban all videos that swapped adult actors’ faces for celebrities. And, while 90 percent of deepfakes are pornographic, according to deepfake detection software firm Deeptrace, manipulated media could easily creep its way into the corporate communications sphere.
“Given that corporate reputation can be a key influencer of share price, a leaked synthetic video or audio clip of a C-suite executive disclosing incriminating or sensitive information about a company’s sales performance or future expansion plans could be used to manipulate markets,” warns Henry Adjer, Deeptrace’s head of threat intelligence. In such an instance, communication professionals could spend months dealing with the fallout.
Initiatives to Combat the Spread
In 2019, deepfakes reentered national discourse, this time the result of a viral video of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He was shown delivering a sinister speech about Facebook’s unchecked power. Two British artists working with advertising firm Canny produced the video. It was part of a multimedia project combining “big data, dada and conceptual art,” as per the original Instagram post.
In addition to a near-perfect reproduction of Zuckerberg’s face, machine learning technology was used to imitate the Facebook chief’s voice in the Canny video.
In the confusion that followed, Facebook, along with Microsoft and other corporations, announced initiatives to detect and remove deepfakes.
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