Can You Learn To Detect a Deepfake?

Written and Fact-Checked by 1440 Editorial Staff
Last updated

Technology has advanced so much that it’s begun to blur the lines between reality and fiction. One of the most concerning advancements is the creation of deepfake technology. It’s an advanced AI technology used to create or alter video content so convincingly that distinguishing real footage from manipulated content becomes increasingly difficult.

Tech like this has wide-ranging implications, from politics — where edited videos can sway public opinion and impact elections — to personal security, like using someone’s image for fraud. Reports and studies highlight the rapid development and accessibility of deepfake tools, posing an urgent societal issue.

By learning about deepfake tech and staying updated on its latest advances, you can equip yourself with the knowledge to spot these digital deceptions.

What are Deepfakes?

Deepfakes use AI to make realistic fake images, videos, or sounds. The name “deepfake” comes from “deep learning” and “fake,” as deep learning algorithms are used to make these convincing fakes. There are several types of deepfakes, including:

  1. Facial manipulation: This means changing or swapping faces in videos or photos. For example, deepfake technology can put a celebrity’s face on another person’s body, making it look like the celebrity is doing things they never did.
  2. Voice synthesis: This type of deepfake uses AI to create convincing audio recordings that mimic a person’s voice. It can replicate someone’s speech patterns, tone, and inflections, making it possible to generate fake audio clips of people saying things they never said.
  3. Full body manipulation: This is the most intricate form of deepfake, creating entirely fake videos with manipulated face and body movements.

Previously, their primary use was for entertainment, including the creation of humorous videos or the dubbing of foreign films. However, as technology continuously advances, deepfakes have become incredibly lifelike and challenging to identify, paving the way for their use in malicious activities.

How Do Deepfakes Work?

Deepfakes rely on artificial neural networks to manipulate and create fake videos and audio. Trained on extensive image, video, and audio datasets, algorithms replicate human appearance and speech nuances. The AI can then generate new, realistic content mimicking real people.

The process involves several steps:

  1. Data collection: The AI requires a large amount of data for learning, including many images, videos, and audio clips of the target individual.
  2. Training: The collected data is used to teach neural networks. The AI learns to recognize patterns, such as facial features and speech patterns.
  3. Generation: Once trained, the AI can generate a photo or video of a person saying something they never actually said by mapping the person’s facial movements onto a different video.

Sophisticated technology can make these manipulations so realistic that even trusted institutions can be fooled. Notable deepfake scandals include: 

  • The Obama deepfake: Showcases a convincingly realistic video of former President Barack Obama making statements he never made.
  • The WSJ challenge: Illustrates the potential of deepfake technology to deceive even trained professionals.

The technology behind deepfakes is rooted in deep learning and AI, so staying informed about these fields can help individuals better understand how deepfakes work and identify them.

How To Detect Deepfakes: Visual and Audio Cues to Look For

Given the sophistication of deepfakes, it can be difficult for AI detection efforts to catch up, but there are still ways for people to detect them. Here are some visual and audio cues that can help identify a deepfake and help sharpen your critical thinking skills

Unnatural Movements

One of the biggest signs of a deepfake is unnatural movements. Deep learning algorithms, while powerful, sometimes fail to replicate the fluidity of natural human motion. Look for:

  • Jerky or stilted movements that seem out of sync with the rest of the body.
  • Abnormal blinking patterns or unnatural eye movements.
  • Head movements that don’t align correctly with the neck and body.

These subtle distinctions may not be immediately obvious, but upon closer inspection, they become apparent.

Lack of Facial Expressions

Facial expressions are a crucial part of human communication, and deepfake technology sometimes struggles to accurately mimic the subtleties of these expressions. Be on the lookout for:

  • Restricted variety of facial expressions or minimal emotional depth in facial features.
  • Smiles, frowns, and other expressions that appear stiff or unnatural.
  • Mouth movements that don’t perfectly match the spoken words, often resulting in a “ventriloquist effect.”

Identifying these cues can help you spot a deepfake, especially when combined with other visual and audio signs.

Inconsistencies in Lighting and Sound Quality

Lighting and sound quality often take a lot of work to perfect in deepfake videos. Deepfakes often fail to replicate consistent lighting, leading to shadows that don’t match the environment or move incorrectly with the face. Similarly, audio deepfakes can exhibit strange artifacts or irregularities. Listen for unnatural pitch changes, inconsistent tone, or audio that doesn’t match the environment’s acoustics.

Ways To Protect Yourself From Deepfakes

It’s increasingly important to protect yourself from being deceived or harmed by artificial creations. Here are some practical measures you can take:

Using Software Tools for Deepfake Detection

To combat deepfakes, use specialized software that detects inconsistencies in videos and audio using advanced algorithms. Some recommended tools and resources include:

  • Deepware Scanner: An app that can analyze videos to detect deepfake content.
  • Sensity: A platform offering AI-driven solutions to detect and monitor deepfakes.
  • Reality Defender: A browser extension that uses AI to detect deepfakes on social media.

Other resources like educational content, forums, and news outlets can also provide valuable information on deepfakes and their detection.

Adjusting Privacy Settings on Social Media

Protecting your online presence is critical to preventing deepfake misuse of your personal info. Here are some tips:

  • Ensure your social media profiles are private so only trusted individuals can view your content.
  • Ensure your profile settings are set to approve tags and mentions.
  • Avoid posting excessive personal information or high-quality images and videos that could be used to create deepfakes.

Everything you put online can potentially be accessed and used by someone with malicious intent, so always exercise caution when sharing personal information.

Being Cautious of Unsolicited Media

Receiving unexpected media files can be a red flag. Ensure that the media comes from a trustworthy and known source before opening it. Likewise, look for signs of manipulation, such as unnatural movements or inconsistencies in lighting and audio. Fake news and misinformation are often spread through deepfake videos, so being vigilant about the content you consume is crucial. 

Reporting Suspected Deepfakes

If you encounter what you believe to be a deepfake, it’s essential to report it to the relevant authorities. Here are some steps:

  • Social media: Most platforms have a reporting mechanism for suspicious content. Use these features to alert the platform about potential deepfakes.
  • Law enforcement: If the deepfake is being used maliciously, such as for identity theft or harassment, report it to your local law enforcement agency.
  • Organizations and watchdogs: Inform organizations specializing in combating digital misinformation and media manipulation.

For more on technology policy and how to navigate digital threats, stay updated through credible sources and education. The key is to stay skeptical and question and verify everything you see online.

Share this article

Don't miss out on the daily email read by over 3.6 million intellectually curious readers.