Deepfake has become a hot topic of discussion everywhere these days. Even our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed concern on this issue. The anxiety is understandable because on the one hand, the common man is extensively using the social media available on the Internet and on the other, terrorist organisations around the world are also exploiting it like anything. They even use social media extensively to recruit terrorists, gather intelligence and disseminate information. As a result, social media platforms have become a major cause for concern for our intelligence agencies.
Actually, technology, like everything else, has two sides too. The best part is that it has brought people and the world closer. It has helped the medical field make incredible progress. This technology is saving people’s lives. We are witnessing the wonders of this technology in the sphere of education too. Education is being imparted even in remote villages through the Internet. Earlier, launching an independent edition of a newspaper would entail establishment of a complete setup. This would mean spending a huge amount of money. Only those with sound finances could launch multiple editions. But the Internet has made the expansion of editions easy. We are already witnessing the wonders of technology in the field of defence and space. You might recall that earlier if you had to call someone, it was very difficult and expensive, but today everyone has a mobile phone. There are many such things and I believe the advantages of technology are more than disadvantages. It has made life more pleasant and enjoyable. But just as eating too much creates problems, the situation is probably the same with this technology too.
Quite naturally, along with many good things, there are some bad ones too. These bad things are, naturally, disturbing us, with the possibility of them becoming more troublesome in future. The same scientists who laid the foundation of artificial intelligence (AI) technology are now becoming apprehensive about it. The world leaders are now insisting that different aspects of AI should be seriously looked into.
Deepfake is one such concern. The name is made up of two English words, deep and fake. Deepfake refers to a fake video that has been made with depth, i.e. in such a way that it is difficult to detect. It can also be called an advanced version of morphing. Although there is nothing new about morphing, the apprehensions over its advanced version becoming more harmful are justified. The debate over this apprehension erupted recently after a deep fake video of actress Rashmika Mandhana went viral on the Internet. This was followed by surfacing of such videos, purportedly deep fakes, of Kajol and Katrina Kaif. After that, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too said he has been shown singing garba in an online video. More such bogus videos are available online. Deepfakes pose an imminent danger to the digital age. Therefore, this must be stopped at all costs.
Deepfake videos are made using AI and Machine Learning software in such a way that it is impossible to distinguish between the real and the fake. Anyone’s voice can now be precisely replicated using voice cloning software and it sounds exactly like the original. Many people recently received a video of a girl wishing them a happy birthday. The girl was even saying the name of the person in question. It is not difficult to make such videos. There are still numerous similar apps available on the Internet which can be used to make such videos.
Even though we are discussing deepfakes in India now, porn videos of several celebrities were posted in America roughly six years back. There hasn’t been a case of a deep fake porn video of an Indian celebrity yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising if one appeared. This can be done on any porn video by combining anyone’s face and cloning their voice!
We continue to indiscriminately post photographs and videos of our personal lives on social media. We must exercise caution while posting any image or video. Not only that, we should be cautious about the websites we visit. There have also been instances where a person’s picture, along with the porn screen, is captured in the camera, increasing the potential of blackmailing him. Cyber fraud is becoming increasingly common. Cases of cyber frauds have surged threefold in the last five years.
If deepfake videos become a weapon of criminals, you can easily understand how dangerous and volatile the situation will become. If you wish to keep the situation from getting out of hand, you must first overcome your own fear. Anyone who discovers a deepfake video should immediately file a complaint with the police cyber cell. Why worry about defamation if the video is fake? So, be cautious while using social media!
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.