Synthesized Media Isn't All Bad

 RESEARCHER: Nicholas Diakopoulos. (Photo by Siri Flatlandsmo)

RESEARCHER: Nicholas Diakopoulos. (Photo by Siri Flatlandsmo)

"Synthesized media could be just the thing that drives the public back into the arms of mainstream news organizations", Nicholas Diakopolous writes.

Diakopolous, ViSmedia researcher and assistant professor at Northwestern University, recently published an article in Colombia Journalism Review called "Reporting in a Machine Reality: Deepfakes, misinformation and what journalists can do about them".

"Nothing online is quite as it appears, now less than ever. Thanks to a new breed of neural network machine-learning algorithms, compelling yet fictitious video, images, voice, and text can be synthesized whole cloth", Diakopoulos writes.

"This is a dangerous time"

Diakopoulos refers to a video published in BuzzFeed, where Obama seemingly says things that are completely out of character. Here's an example:

"President Trump is a total and complete dipsh*it". 

Soon, a face shows up next to Obama's, with synchronized speech and motion. It was Jordan Peele talking through Obama's lips all along.

"This is a dangerous time. Moving forward, we need to be more vigilant about what we trust on the Internet", Peele says through Barack Obama's mouth.

Diakopoulos asks some very important questions: "So what happens when the public can no longer trust any media they encounter online? How can a society have an informed understanding of world events when media can so easily be polluted by algorithmic media synthesis?"

  • Read also: Synthesizing faces and emotions through neural network technology

Can be good news, if journalists adapt

He doesn't believe this new technology is all bad. But journalist will have to adapt and learn new skills to convince a suspicious public.

"The algorithms aren’t perfect, but journalists, like all investigators, need trained eyes to see the flaws," Diakopolous writes.

He points to training in media forensics techniques.

"If we all can’t trust our eyes on the Internet, perhaps we can trust that a media outlet is following a rigorous process to ensure that whatever they do publish is authentic".

Watch the BuzzFeed video below:

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