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Deepfakes: Friend or foe?

06 June 2024

Deepfakes: Friend or foe?

Are deepfakes a friend or a foe? That was the central question Pranit Biswas, managing associate at SS Rana & Co in New Delhi, asked the audience on the opening day of the Global IP Convention in Istanbul. “Most people have a negative view of deepfakes, but I hope to highlight some of the positive aspects of deepfakes,” he said.

Born out of machine learning and fake images, we have all been exposed to deepfakes, especially on social media. It can often be difficult to tell what is real or fake. What started harmless, with face-swapping and other light-hearted uses, deepfakes now can spread malicious content and be difficult to identify. In a recent Times of India survey, 86 percent of Indians thought that deepfakes could affect the outcome of an election, one of the more obvious negative ways the technology can be used to deceive.

“While the negative aspects cannot be ignored, AI and AI content, which is what deepfakes are, also have a lot of positive applications if they are used effectively,” said Biswas.

Effective use of deepfakes

In education, deepfake technology can effectively deliver engaging lessons and bring history alive. By recreating historical events and figures with realistic images, they can foster interactive learning experiences. Biswas highlighted their potential to improve learning outcomes through the use of synthetic voices and videos.

Biswas also illustrated a positive use of deepfake technology in healthcare, citing CereProc, a UK-based text-to-speech company, as an example. CereProc uses AI to create realistic deepfake voices for children and teenagers in Wales who cannot speak, granting them a voice reflecting who they are and their cultural background.

Deepfakes can also mask the identity of individuals where privacy is a concern, which is particularly useful for people living under repressive regimes or those seeking anonymity. Deepfake technology provides them with a realistic avatar and allows them to “speak” at conferences and online to protect their identities or privacy.

A deepfaked Peter Cushing in Rogue One, and the real actor in the original Star Wars: A New Hope. Images copyright Lucasfilm Ltd

On the other hand, in the entertainment industry, using deepfake is a cost-effective solution for actors and filmmakers. Licensed imaging allows actors to endorse products or appear in games without the need to film scenes, which can lower costs for the licensee. If actors do not need to spend several days filming, they can offer their likeness for lower royalty fees.

Deepfakes can also be licensed to bring deceased actors back to life to ensure story continuity. In the 2016 Star Wars film Rouge One, the late Peter Cushing’s image was mapped onto actor Guy Henry’s face to bring Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin back to life. Deepfaked images of football players have also been used to recreate iconic adverts when the actual players are now too old to perform the tricks they could 10 years ago.

Additionally, Biswas noted that directors can also use deepfakes to pre-screen actors to see if they fit the part or to see how an actor would look in a particular costume, reducing the need for lengthy casting sessions and lowering costs.

Similarly, fashion houses use deepfake technology to allow customers to try on clothes digitally first, giving them the ability to see how they look in them in a variety of settings. It can also be used to enable people to customise clothes before they order.

Dangers of deepfakes

“The word remains in a negative light,” said Biswas. He pointed out that deepfakes can be used to make politicians say and do things they didn’t, spreading misinformation and damaging public opinion if not controlled. They can also be used to create fake news stories. Biswas emphasized that the negative impact on businesses should not be understated with corporate fraud and fake endorsements costing US$78 billion annually.

Despite these concerns, we must acknowledge the enormous positive aspects of deepfake technology if it is managed correctly, he concluded.

Biswas spoke on the opening day of the Global IP Convention, which is taking place in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 6 and 7, 2024.

- Darren Barton

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