Louisiana Political Ad Uses ‘Deepfake’ Technology And Goes Viral – Is This A New Trend?
Ever since the rise of "deepfake" technology - apps and services that can be used to make fake images and videos of someone appear extremely real - there has been a concern in the political world that it could be used for disinformation.
Experts have repeatedly warned, including at a Congressional hearing, that such technology would make it very difficult for the average voter to spot a deepfake and that it could cause chaos in the political process.
It can also be used to make hilarious, obviously fake videos, but the very real concerns are still there.
Warning: Hilarious, obviously fake videos below.
The problem with deepfakes, as the experts suggest, is that they can be made to look so real you may not notice at first that something is amiss. That has the potential to be very misleading to voters, and it's caused politicians and media groups to be on high alert for anything of the sort.
Ahead of the 2020 elections, multiple major media outlets - Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and others - pulled ads from a group called RepresentUS that featured deepfakes of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un on the perils American democracy was facing.
But in north Louisiana, a political group has become one of the first to create a deepfake ad, one that targets Mayor Adrian Perkins.
As News Radio 710 KEEL reported earlier this week, the group People Over Politics released an anti-Perkins ad that utilized deepfake technology. However, this was very obviously a parody of Perkins rather than an attempt to make it appear he did something he did not.
The ad, which features a Perkins lookalike being called to the principal's office, has a convincing image of Perkins' head on a student's body, and the voice of the character in the video is said to even sound like him.
According to the Louisiana Radio Network's reporting, People Over Politics is funded by a New Orleans developer named Anthony Marullo, III.
[La Politics editor] Alford says Marullo bought real estate in Shreveport but became disgruntled with the city leadership so paid for the ads. Alford believes this is the first time that such technology has been used in a political ad in Louisiana. But with next year’s statewide races looming, he believes it’s impact will echo far outside of northwest Louisiana.
“ The big story here isn’t this video that made it to broadcast television. The big story here is, what comes next?”, Alford said.
Is utilizing this technology in a way that isn't meant to maliciously fool people fair game? It's hard to say.
Such technology comes with major risks. There are people who might be led to believe that certain ads, videos, or images are real and may end up believing something that isn't true. While no reasonable person could believe that Perkins is actually being called to a principal's office over his performance as mayor, the same technology could be used to put him in situations that seem more real.
There is a fine line where the ethics are concerned, and this, as Alford implies above, could be the start of something much bigger.