A little dystopian chicanery to cleanse the palate via BuzzFeed. If you read this post in February you already know what this clip is and the basics of how it was done. The voice is off, but if they had wanted to make it sound more like Obama, there are ways of doing that too.
BuzzFeed offers five tips for discriminating news consumers in trying to tell “deepfakes” from the real deal, which I think is adorable. In a world so stupid and drenched in confirmation bias that a story like “Pope endorses Trump” can score a million views on Facebook, does anyone believe polished fakes won’t be eagerly and uncritically devoured by their target audiences? Within a few years, grandmas and grandpas across the land will be sending videos to each other of Obama “confessing” to having murdered 15 people. Subject header: “FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: SHOCKING ADMISSION.”
If you had to bet, though, you’d wager that the first massive public exposure this technology is likely to get is when some too-clever Resistance member with time on his hands cooks up a video in 2020 that purports to catch Trump red-handed saying or doing something scandalous. A public uproar will follow; the idea of POTUS doing something shady will seem all too plausible; Trump will cry “fake news!” and for once he’ll be right. Our crack media will be forced to scrutinize the video, simultaneously not wanting to debunk it because it helps the Democratic nominee but also wanting to debunk it and expose a malefactor. If the clip is debunked, Trump will naturally point to that as evidence that the “Access Hollywood” tape might have been faked too. (He’s already floated that theory privately, if you believe the Times.) But maybe it won’t matter if the clip is debunked or not. Partisans on both sides will simply do what they always do, assimilating the information to the extent that it does or doesn’t flatter their worldview. If you’re anti-Trump, the clip will be real. If you’re pro-Trump, fake news!
Even if the creator finally copped to it and admitted that he doctored the clip, that wouldn’t dissuade everyone who was invested it. How many people would even see the news that the creator had confessed? As James Comey learned when he sent the letter announcing the reopening of Emailgate, only to announce a few days later that he was closing it again, you can’t unring the bell.
So yes, we’re headed for a dystopian nightmare. And if that’s not enough to depress you, imagine what a truly sophisticated motivated malefactor like, say, the Russian government can and might do along these lines with superior state-grade technology. If it’s true that one of Putin’s core priorities in information warfare is to undermine westerners’ faith in their institutions, this tech is the holy grail. Maybe they’ll release a phony “pee tape” of Trump that even American experts might have difficulty telling from the real thing. You trust the media’s Russiagate true believers to take a hard skeptical look at that video, don’t you?
By the way, if you’re wondering how BuzzFeed landed Jordan Peele for this little experiment, it’s easily explained. He’s married to the CEO’s sister. It’s a favor for family.