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Communications of the ACM


Outsmarting Deepfake Video

deepfake human, illustration

Credit: Getty Images

In March 2022, a synthesized video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared on various social media platforms and a national news website. In the video, Zelenskyy urges his people to surrender in their fight against Russia; however, the speaker is not Zelenskyy at all. The minute-long clip was a deepfake, a synthesized video produced via deep learning models, and the president soon posted a legitimate message reaffirming his nation's commitment to defending its land and people.

The Ukrainian government already been had warning the public that state-sponsored deepfakes could be used as part of Russia's information warfare. The video itself was not particularly realistic or convincing, but the quality of deepfakes has been improving rapidly. "You have to be a little impressed by synthetic media," says University of California, Berkeley computer scientist and digital forensics expert Hany Farid. "In five years, we have gone from pretty cruddy, low-resolution videos to full-blown, high-resolution, very sophisticated 'Tom Cruise TikTok' deepfakes. It's evolving at light speed. We're entering a stage where it's becoming surprisingly easy to distort reality."


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