The camera never lies. Except, of course, it always has. Photo manipulation is as old as photography, and images have been tweaked and altered for various reasons since at least the 19th century. In the Soviet Union, individuals were famously edited out of photographs when they fell out of political favour. What sort of trickery could despotic regimes achieve in the 21st century, with all the new tools of digital technology?

The latest trend worrying security experts is the “deepfake” technology. Deepfakes are highly realistic and difficult-to-detect, digitally manipulated videos of people saying or doing things they never did. They can be used to produce everything from celebrity pornography to fake news and hoaxes. Could they ever be used to manipulate an election by producing footage of a candidate doing or saying something controversial or illegal? Could deepfakes ever spark an international incident, or even conflict, by faking a military event? Could regimes cover up humanitarian crimes by bringing activists back to life or hiding evidence of torture?

Want to learn more about deepfakes and the impact of digital manipulation? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Paul who believes YouTube is awash with faked videos promoting conspiracy theories. How big a problem is the issue of faked video right now?

To get a response, we put Paul’s comment to Hany Farid, professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, and a specialist in digital forensics and image analysis. What would he say?

Next up, Marcel tells us his philosophy is not to trust the mainstream media, and only to believe things he can see with his own eyes. Is that really a sensible philosophy, or does it leave him vulnerable to manipulation by new technologies such as Deepfakes? And can society even function properly without some basic level of trust in information?

How would Professor Hany Farid respond?

To get another perspective, we put the same comment to Fabrice Pothier, Senior Advisor at the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity, a bi-partisan initiative by leading figures in European and US politics, tech, media and business aimed at of addressing the issue of foreign interference in elections. What would he say to Marcel?

Well, the problem in this case is that if that’s the ultimate test – to believe only what you see – then there are many things you will not be able to believe, including things that are happening on the other side of the world. That’s a very limited way to test the truth of news items.

What you need to do is have all the elements to be able to decide whether this is a quality news item or opinion piece, or whether this is a more controversial and potentially inauthentic piece of news or opinion. That’s the first step towards defending our citizens and societies against more toxic news. So, just be open and clear, and if you feel that the news provider – either the mainstream news or a news platform – are not clear and transparent enough about who has written what and why have they written that piece, then I think as a citizen and a consumer of news you should ask for that information, because I think this is your right. And I think this will really greatly help people to exert more critical minds when they receive news in their inbox or on their WhatsApp group.

Can we still trust what we see and hear online? Are social media platforms “awash” with faked videos and content? And can society function without basic trust in information? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – konstantynov

8 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Maybe I can interest somebody in spending a week reading the Critique of Pure Reason instead of getting riled up about things they read in the “news”.
    In short: you should never have trusted the news you read in the first place.

  2. avatar

    Yes and no. I have no idea why society hasn’t collapsed already.

  3. avatar
    catherine benning

    Can we still trust what we see and hear online?

    What we see online is often fiddled with. And the fiddlers of incorrect information is, in the main, carried out by those who have an interest in either, misleading us, wanting to hide political objectives, or some other ruse they know you will not approve of should you be aware of the scheme and how it will effect your lifestyle. They know it will be rejected.

    I’ll add a simple example, but this gobbling of truth is much wider and far more in depth than what I could expose here. Ultimately, what all of them are after, other than absolute power, is your money, in whatever way they can get it. Your money buys the fiddlers power.

    Our Brexit Referendum was offered the public to ask if they wanted free of rule by the EU. If indeed we wanted freedom to decide our future quite separate of EU regulation and jurisdiction. The question simply asked was, do you want to be ‘in or out’ of the EU. As you all know, the vote went against those in our Parliament who are in hock to EU rule. Which is really Globalist rule, as the entire Western World is being run by the same cartel. And that cartel, along with its objectives are carefully kept ‘secret’. Unless you look for hidden groups you know are powerful, yet, never let you know what it is you are being fed, led into or where their intention is planned to take you. And the most probable reason for such secrecy has to be, full knowledge, should you be aware of their vision, would create a fight tooth and nail, to reject it.

    So, we had our Brexit vote, the country, meaning the ‘British’ people, wanted out. The fact that half the world were also given permission to vote on our decision, making progress was rarely mentioned. The Commonwealth and the rights they have to insist on participation in our leadership, is well hidden from the paying British people. As, those citizens may not wish to continue funding a project that diminishes their personal power of democratic right and expectation, should they have knowledge. If the public were aware millions, who have vested interests not connected to the citizen of the UK and who are not paying for their infrastructure, etc., could lead to trouble. Politicians may find a squeezing of their funds

    Then, what happens is, a euphemism is used in order to deflect reality of what is taking place behind backs. So, our Parliament over the Brexit issue has been consistently feeding a lie, via altered wording. Media, of all kinds, pick up on it and stick with the misinformation, no matter how many times the listener may be spasmodically advised of the truth. The human brain sticks with repeated messages.

    The British are pounded day and night with May’s so called ‘Withdrawal Deal.’ Stick with May’s ‘Withdrawal Deal’ and you will be out of the EU. Not only will you be out of it, but, I too will resign. And guess what. This Act they have named, ‘May’s Withdrawal Agreement,’ is, in fact, the EU’s International New eternally binding ‘Treaty’ for British continuation as part of the EU club. It has nothing at all to do with UK’s withdrawal from EU jurisdiction over our country. In fact it keeps us in it for eternity

    We have been told, in one liners, a couple of times, never elaborated on or discussed and immediately dismissed as, it instantly again is referred to by euphemism, ‘Withdrawal Agreement.’ And this goes on in perpetuity. The way they did it and continue to do it with Trump. Both before and after his most recent exoneration.

    Our so called ‘PM May’s Withdrawal Agreement’ will not be named by its true title, British binding International Treaty.

    The Withdrawal Agreement is a ‘treaty’ between the UK (a state) and the EU (an international organisation), whereas ‘treaty’ is defined in the VCLT as an agreement between states; and the Vienna Convention involving international organisations not yet in force.15 Mar 2019

    The news, on all channels, or, media in any way, will not refer to it thus or explain it in a way public can receive its truth. They do not want the public to know. Now why would they want to keep this fact hidden? Why would the information outlets not want the public to know it was drawn up in the EU by their lawyers and offered to our PM as a fait accompli? Other than, to Leave with No Deal. What is the motive? Why must its reality be hidden? Anyone?

    Then up comes this question, can we still trust what we see and hear online? Well, the answer has to be no. If you want to be truly informed you have to research widely what it is you are being told. And more, find out where the information given is leading and for what purpose.

  4. avatar

    maybe it is hard to trust, because the people and organizations who have a strong and time consuming influence on our lives, often to continuously do things which betray this trust

  5. avatar

    World wide, each of us must scrutinize, evaluate and determine if what is found online can be trusted, even it the source is or has been trusted before.

  6. avatar


  7. avatar

    Ιf it comes from free sources

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