Facebook is (mostly) banning it. This year’s American elections are likely to be impacted by it. Films are casting dead actors using it. Celebrities are unwittingly starring in porn movies because of it. And it’s getting easier and easier.

Deepfake. It’s one of the many tools available to people seeking to disseminate untruths, and it’s increasingly accessible.

These are fake films that look like the real thing, usually involving people. Once the province of studios with mega-budgets, soon deployed by intelligence agencies, the rise of processing power in standard computers and access to sophisticated apps has brought this capability to the (technologically and mischievously-minded) masses. Homegrown deepfakes are still clunky, but they are getting more convincing and require less information to bring to life.

Previously, deepfakes have needed a large number of images and soundbites of a person to develop their fake persona. But last year, Samsung’s technicians in Moscow managed to bring the Mona Lisa and Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring to life, using the single painted image available. And this film of Einstein was made using just a single image and a brief voice clip.

In 2019, Republican Senator Marco Rubio warned: “In the old days, if you wanted to threaten the United States, you needed 10 aircraft carriers, and nuclear weapons, and long-range missiles. Today … increasingly, all you need is the ability to produce a very realistic fake video that could undermine our elections, that could throw our country into tremendous crisis internally and weaken us deeply.”

More worrying, for many, is the opportunity to superimpose faces of real people in situations that could land them in hot water.

And whilst most of our friends and clients are unlikely to be impacted by high level political propaganda or celebrity face-swapping, the ease of the process could see deepfakes popping up on social media accounts created near you before long.

So – what can you do?

Want to protect yourself from being a victim of deepfake confusion? As with other dubious enews, and facts gleaned from a Google search, our advice is simple: check sources and cross-refer.

Traditional media brands are bound by codes of conduct. Putting aside their political bias or opinions, their materials must be validated. Get your news there and you are more than likely to get the real thing.

And if you’re commissioning publicity, it’s worth knowing that the general public is intuitively aware of this.

When we place posts using a trusted source, we achieve 38% more effective reach and 46% more engagement. That’s not to say we’re rejecting more diverse channels and routes to consumer attention, but it’s undoubtedly good news for the beleaguered media and a challenge for others to overcome.


(You can also read our People Manifesto, launched in 2019, where we set out our intent to protect people as AI grows in ease and influence.)