Deepfake: understand what it is, how to identify it and what risks it offers

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Carlos Laforet Coll
@carloslaforetcoll
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Deepfake is the name given to the technique that allows you to recreate the appearance or human voice with the help of artificial intelligence. With technology, it's possible to simulate people talking or acting in ways they never would.

The word would be a combination of the terms deep learning (a branch of machine learning or machine learning, in Portuguese) and fake (false). The concept would have emerged in 2022, in reference to a Reddit user with the nickname deepfakes.


He reportedly used deep learning technology to superimpose the faces of celebrities and people in pornographic films. Since then, the method has become increasingly realistic and accessible.


prepared a guide for you to better understand what is and how the editing feature that has been dominating the internet works. Also check out the risks offered and how to protect yourself.

How does deepfake work?

Actress Michelle Adams has her face replaced by actor Nicolas Cage (Reproductionb/Wikipedia)

To create a deepfake video, two competing artificial intelligence algorithms, called generator and discriminator, are used. According to the website Whatis.com, the function of the first is to create fake videos and, of the second, to identify them as real or not.

When the discriminator finds false content, the generator learns about what not to do. And thus, you will create the next video in an improved way. When acting together, generator and discriminator generate the so-called generative adversarial network (GAN), or generative opposition network, in free translation.

How to create a deepfake video?

You Won’t Believe What Obama Says In This Video! 😉

To assemble a film of the genre it is necessary to have a source video, preferably as simple as possible. Therefore, political speeches are often used, in which the background is neutral and basically head movements are made.



So, you need to combine two sets of data. If the character in the video turns his head to the left and opens his mouth, it is necessary to have images of who will replace him in the same positions. This may require a vast image bank.

Then it's up to the artificial intelligence-based program to do the work. After a lot of trial and error and success, the generative adversarial network will incorporate one face into the other as accurately as possible.

The video above is one of the most famous of deepfake. In it, former US President Barack Obama's movements and voice are superimposed on those of comedian Jordan Peele.

What are the risks of deepfake?

Despite looking harmless, deepfake has been controversial since its emergence in 2022 on Reddit. The technique was widely used to superimpose the faces of actresses and people in pornographic videos.

As it develops, the technique becomes more realistic and the contents end up going viral as if they were real. This is one of the great dangers of the resource: the dissemination of false content as authentic.

In 2022, Facebook found itself embroiled in a scandal following the leak of user data by a third-party app company. Shortly after, a video of Mark Zuckerberg went viral and worried a lot of people.

In the short film, the CEO of Facebook insinuates that he controls the future by having the domain of billions of data. The content was nothing more than a deepfake product created by Bill Poster for the Specter company.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Bill Posters (@bill_posters_uk) on Jun 13, 2022 at 5:18am PDT

Another foreseen problem is the loss of credibility of any type of material published on the internet. Technology makes it increasingly difficult to identify and filter what kind of news is true or simply created by the computer. What your eyes and ears see and hear may be nothing more than a software product.


With the popularization of programs that allow lay people to create videos of the genre, it is possible that ordinary people are also increasingly targets of this type of montage.

The results can range from simulating participation in adult films to creating false evidence against someone.

As it is a recent phenomenon, governments still do not have specific laws to combat crimes related to deepfake. In the UK, the producer of such content can be indicted for harassment.

In the United States, charges can range from identity theft, cyber stalking, and revenge porn. In our country, there is still no specific regulation on the subject.

How to identify a deepfake?

Via Cheezburger

Despite the evolution of the technique, most amateur deepfakes can still be identified with the naked eye. In these cases, it is possible to identify a lack of naturalness in the blink of the eyes, movement of the lips or the presence of shadows in the wrong places.

However, the concern about the future is real. In the United States, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is already investing in ways to better identify the videos.


For now, the best measure is to always be alert to what you receive and be aware of the sources of sharing.

What is ZAO?

Announced in September 2022 on the Chinese App Store, the app ZAO made news around the world. The program went viral for taking smartphones to create deepfakes from a photo in just 8 seconds.

The result borders on perfection and was shared on Twitter by user @AllanXia. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio's face was replaced by his in several scenes and the expressiveness is impressive.


The launch of the app reopened the debate on technology and privacy. Firstly because, according to the terms of use of the program, by using it, you would be giving the company the right to use your data and face for commercial uses in a free and irrevocable way.

After many complaints, the company responsible changed the term. Now, it states that the content will only be used by the developers for the purpose of improving the application and the technology used.

Another worrying issue is the fact that the app makes it even simpler to create overlays with anyone's images. And with increasing realism. This could make it easier for victims of fake videos to be seen as real.

Outros deepfake apps

But this isn't the first time that deepfake shows have gone viral. The first of these was the FakeApp, released in January 2022 for desktop. It allowed you to create and share videos with replaced faces with relative ease.

The main difficulty was to gather a large amount of visual material from the person who would be inserted, so that the result was satisfactory. Currently, it is no longer possible to find the available program.

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