All Misinformation stories

Deepfakes for good

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

What do you do with a technology that could restore the voices of people who have lost theirs — but also sow chaos and incite violence?

What's happening: A growing group of companies are walking this tightrope, betting they can deploy deepfakes — videos, audio and photos that are altered or generated by AI — as a force for good, or at least non-malign purposes, while keeping the technology away from those who would use it to do harm.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Apr 25, 2019 - Technology

Startup behind David Beckham deepfake video raises $3.1 million

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Synthesia, a London-based developer of video synthesis technology, raised $3.1 million co-led by LDV Capital and Mark Cuban.

Why it matters: This is the company whose tech is behind a viral video in which soccer star David Beckham speaks nine different languages. As you might have guessed, David Beckham doesn't know how to speak nine different languages, and the video is for malaria awareness, not some sort of Rosetta Stone-like product. It's both mesmerizing and terrifying.

Defending against audio deepfakes before it's too late

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big Tech, top university labs and the U.S. military are pouring effort and money into detecting deepfake videos — AI-edited clips that can make it look like someone is saying something they never uttered. But video's forgotten step-sibling, deepfake audio has attracted considerably less attention despite a comparable potential for harm.

What's happening: With video deepfakes, defenders are playing the cat to a fast-scurrying mouse: AI-generated video is getting quite good. The technology to create audio fakes, by contrast, is not as advanced — but experts say that's soon to change.

An AI-generated Ellen DeGeneres voice is the future of deepfakes

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

If you want to make a video deepfake, you can download free software and create it yourself. Someone with a bit of savvy and a chunk of time can churn out side-splitters like this one. Not so for audio deepfakes — at least not yet. Good synthetic audio is still the domain of startups, Big Tech and academic research.

What's happening: Pindrop, the audio biometrics company, is developing synthetic voices in order to train its own defenses to detect them. Vijay Balasubramaniyan, Pindrop's CEO, shared several fake voices with Axios.

Mar 5, 2019 - Technology

2020's homegrown fake news crisis

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

New reports shows ways that fake news is hiding in plain sight in America, and how it's getting harder to track in real time.

Driving the news: An investigation by fact-checking company Snopes finds that a series of seemingly innocuous local websites, first reported last year by Politico, are being run by GOP consultants whose businesses are funded in part by candidates the websites cover.

Text is the next horizon for deepfakes

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Researchers have broadened the controversial technology called "deepfakes" — AI-generated media that experts fear could roil coming elections by convincingly depicting people saying or doing things they never did.

Driving the news: A new computer program, created at OpenAI, the San Francisco AI lab, is the latest front in deepfakes, producing remarkably human-sounding prose that opens the prospect of fake news circulated at industrial scale.

A certificate of authenticity against deepfakes

Police officer wearing a body camera. Photo: Felix Hörhager/picture alliance/Getty Images

Every weapon is on the table in the war against democracy-disrupting deepfakes — from technology to detect the AI-altered videos and audio to legislation that would punish creating and distributing them.

The big problem is that these solutions don't work yet. So a third approach is gaining traction: developing a way to verify that a video hasn't been altered.

Feb 12, 2019 - Technology

Fake news fight pivots to retail

National Enquirer. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The National Enquirer is sparking a media crossover, with activists pushing to persuade stores to stop carrying tabloids in light of recent scandals around the publication.

Why it matters: So much of the attention on fake and malignant news has been on the platforms — Google, Facebook and Twitter. But a major chunk of the questionable media consumed in America is still seen in print, often in the checkout aisle.

Lawmakers plunge into "deepfake" war

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Deepfakes — digitally forged videos that can be impossible to detect — are called the end of truth, a threat to democracy and a potential disruption to society. Everyone agrees on the danger, but no one has figured out what to do about it.

But now Congress and several states are considering the first legislation against AI-altered videos and audio — suggesting a coming barrage of such laws.

Fake anti-Trump Washington Post papers distributed in D.C.

The fake Washington Post paper. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Yes Labs

Fake Washington Post papers filled with anti-Trump stories were distributed around D.C. on Wednesday morning, the real Washington Post reports.

Details: The fake paper, which was supplemented with a live online edition, led with a front page story reporting that President Trump has left office. Per the Post, a video was posted by liberal activist group Code Pink of its founder Medea Benjamin passing out papers and saying, "The crisis is over — Trump has left the White House." Liberal advocacy group MoveOn was suspected to possibly be behind the fake papers, but the organization tweeted: "While we love the headline, we didn't produce today's satirical Washington Post."