A Deep Dive On Deepfakes

Telling fact from fiction may be harder than you think—a new study from Singapore has found that even people aware of deepfakes have inadvertently shared them online.

AsianScientist (Dec. 15, 2020) – Despite being aware of deepfakes and the dangers they carry, a recent survey has found that some Singaporeans still shared deepfake content on social media. The survey findings were reported in the journal Telematics and Informatics.

Seemingly straight out of an episode of Black Mirror, deepfakes—a portmanteau of ‘deep learning’ and ‘fake’—have grown in prominence in recent years. As artificial intelligence (AI) software becomes more sophisticated, these ultrarealistic deepfake videos can depict people performing actions they have never done before. Unlike fake videos of the past, where shoddy edits can be spotted a mile away, deepfakes are nearly indistinguishable from reality.

In the wake of the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’ and rising political tensions across the world, the number of deepfakes identified online has skyrocketed. According to deepfake detection firm Sensity, around 50,000 deepfakes were circulating online as of June 2020—with the numbers doubling every six months.

With these alarming trends, Assistant Professor Saifuddin Ahmed of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, surveyed 1,231 Singaporeans to reveal the prevalence of deepfake technology closer to home.

54 percent of the survey’s respondents were aware of deepfakes, with a third of this percentage subsequently sharing content on social media that they later discovered was a deepfake. In addition, around one one-fifth of the Singaporeans aware of deepfakes said that they regularly encountered deepfakes online.

Ahmed also surveyed respondents in the US to see if these deepfake trends were reflected worldwide. At 61 percent, more respondents in the US were aware of deepfakes. Despite being aware that deepfakes exist, nearly 40 percent of the respondents who said they knew about deepfakes nonetheless reported inadvertently sharing them on social media.

According to Ahmed, these country-specific differences may be due to the existence of policies like the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) in Singapore, which limits the threat of disinformation tactics like deepfakes. However, a concerted effort to educate the public on digital literacy is also needed on top of these efforts.

“While tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google have started to label what they have identified as manipulated online content like deepfakes, more efforts will be required to educate the citizenry in effectively negating such content,” noted Ahmed.

The article can be found at: Ahmed (2020) Who Inadvertently Shares Deepfakes? Analyzing the Role of Political Interest, Cognitive Ability, and Social Network Size.


Source: Nanyang Technological University; Photo: Lam Oi Keat/Asian Scientist Magazine.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

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