Deepfakes can be defined as visual and audio content that has been manipulated using advanced software to change how a person, object or environment is presented.

Deepfakes have become synonymous with face replacement, where someone’s face is digitally mapped onto that of another person. Face-swapping, as this type of deepfake is also known, was first used in the doctoring of pornographic videos.

Deepfakes can also take the form of:

  • Face re-enactment, where advanced software is used to manipulate the features of someone’s face, with no face swapping involved
  • Face generation, where advanced software is used to create entirely new images of faces, which do not reflect a real person
  • Speech synthesis, where advanced software is used to create a model of someone’s voice.

Deepfakes are likely to become more sophisticated over time. For now, however, high quality content remains difficult to create, requiring specialist skills and professional software that is not yet widely available. We are yet to see a convincing deepfake of a politician that could distort public discourse.

However, even rudimentary deepfakes can cause harm. Some estimate that there are now thousands of deepfake pornographic videos on the internet, which while clearly doctored still cause distress to those who have been featured.

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