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Deepfakes, or AI-generated videos that take a person in an existing video and replace them with someone else’s likeness, are multiplying at an accelerating rate. According to startup Deeptrace, the number of deepfakes on the web increased 330% from October 2019 to June 2020, reaching over 50,000 at their peak. That’s troubling not only because these fakes might be used to sway opinion during an election or implicate a person in a crime, but because they’ve already been abused to generate pornographic material of actors and defraud a major energy producer.

While much of the discussion to date around deepfakes has focused on social media, pornography, and fraud, it’s worth noting that deepfakes pose a threat to people portrayed in manipulated videos and their circle of trust. As a result, deepfakes also represent an existential threat to businesses, particularly in industries that depend on digital media to make important decisions. The FBI earlier this year warned that deepfakes are a critical emerging threat targeting businesses.

To help promote awareness, Attestiv, a data authentication startup, surveyed U.S.-based professionals about threats to their employers related to altered or manipulated digital media. Over 130 people across various industries responded to the questionnaire, including those working in IT, data services, health care, and financial services.

Over 80% of respondents said that manipulated media poses a potential risk to their organization, according to Attestiv. However, less than 30% say they’ve taken steps to mitigate fallout from a deepfake attack. Twenty-five percent of respondents claim they’re planning to take action, but 46% say that their organization lacks a plan or that they personally lack knowledge of the plan.


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Attestiv also requested that respondents consider a possible solution to their potential deepfake problem. When asked, “What’s the best defense organizations can take against altered digital media?,” 48% of survey takers felt the best defense was automated detection and filtering solutions. Thirty-eight percent believed that training employees to detect deepfakes was a superior course of action.

“Training employees to detect deepfakes may not be a viable solution given the likelihood that they are rapidly becoming undetectable to human inspection,” the Attestiv report’s authors wrote. “It appears there may be a need for further education regarding the deepfake threat and the trajectory the technology is taking.”

Challenging road ahead

The fight against deepfakes is likely to remain challenging, especially as media generation techniques continue to improve. Earlier this year, deepfake footage of Tom Cruise posted to an unverified TikTok account racked up 11 million views on the app and millions more on other platforms. And when scanned through several of the best publicly available deepfake detection tools, they avoided discovery, according to Vice.

In an attempt to fight the spread of deepfakes, Facebook — along with Amazon and Microsoft, among others — spearheaded the Deepfake Detection Challenge, which ended last June. The challenge’s launch came after the release of a large corpus of visual deepfakes produced in collaboration with Jigsaw, Google’s internal technology incubator, which was incorporated into a benchmark made freely available to researchers for synthetic video detection system development.

More recently, Microsoft launched its own deepfake-combating solution in Video Authenticator, a tool that can analyze a still photo or video to provide a score for its level of confidence that the media hasn’t been artificially manipulated. The company also developed a technology built into Microsoft Azure that enables a content producer to add metadata to a piece of content, as well as a reader that checks the metadata to let people know that the content is authentic.

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