WATCH: The deepfakes are real and our reality is at risk
Tech ethicists have been sounding the alarm about deepfakes for some time now, and tech think tank Future Advocacy has decided to show just how possible and damaging this tech can be. They’ve released a fake campaign video that shows the two candidates for the coming U.K. election endorsing each other.
Rationally, we know that Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson would not actually endorse each other for the office they both covet, yet our eyes deceive us when we view a video like this. In the hands of Future Advocacy, the video is revealed to be a fake. But this tech could be used by bad actors to disrupt elections all over the world.
Unlike the magician who guards his sleight of hand with care, Future Advocacy reveals how the trick was turned. First, they choose the source video, that clip that they would use to as the base image and movement of the person they are going to fake. Then they parse the words the person most uses, and write the script that sounds like what the person would say. After that, the voice is laid in, and aligned with the movements.
Last month, the U.S. Senate passed the Deepfake Report Act, that “would require the Department of Homeland Security to publish an annual report on the use of deepfake technology that would be required to include an assessment of how both foreign governments and domestic groups are using deepfakes to harm national security.”
The Senate became more concerned about the problem earlier this year when a parody video of Nancy Pelosi was released that made her look drunk. This video was not actually a deep fake, but an actual video slowed down to make her appear sluggish. But it was enough to strike fear into the hearts of legislators.
While the Deepfake Report Act is a step toward trying to understand how the tech is used, what is still needed are the tools on how to detect it. Facebook, ever in the spotlight when it comes to hating on big tech, has dedicated $10 million to the study of deepfakes.
The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been researching deep fakes, learning first how to make them, so that they can learn how to detect them. The creation of deep fakes is entirely dependent on computer analysis, and as is the detection of the fakes.
It’s a good bet that while Future Advocacy and the Pentagon are working on both raising awareness and figure out how to combat this problem, respectively, those who would sow the seeds of chaos around the world are working just as hard to make them undetectable.
The very concept of reality is under threat. Libel and defamation laws could punish those who would legit make faked campaign videos such as the one conjured by Future Advocacy. But where does that leave us with regard to those videos that go undetected? Even when a video, as the slurred Pelosi one, was proved to be false, the damage was already done. That clip went viral before anyone even raised a question, probably even before Pelosi saw it herself.
Even more recently, friends of the Royals have floated the theory that the infamous photo of Prince Andrew with his 17-year-old accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre is “doctored” and that “his fingers look too chubby.”
Giuffre responded by saying “This photo has been verified as an original and it’s been since given to the FBI and they’ve never contested that it’s a fake. I know it’s real. He needs to stop with all of these lame excuses. We’re sick of hearing it. This is a real photo. That’s the very first time I met him.”
As illustrated by this recent example, the implications go beyond fooling voters. Allegations of deep-fakery could be used to cover up crimes or in other cases, falsely implicate people in crimes.
If the goal of those who make deepfakes is to create chaos and confusion in the U.S. and the U.K., they are proving that they are already capable of achieving success. We must maintain our vigilance, good humour, and wariness of everything that flickers across our screens. However, this wariness, this inability to trust trusted sources, is the chaos, confusion, and disorder that bad actors have engendered. When we don’t know who to trust, when we can’t believe our own eyes, when every conceivable source of data and information needs to be interrogated, where does that leave us?
In many ways, humans make snap judgements. Perhaps it’s a remnant of a survival instinct, a fight or flight impulse. But thinking on our feet, making quick determinations, is how we get through life. We do not question everything, because there is simply not enough time in the day. If we find that we are unable to trust new sources of information, we may lock down our views, solidify them, and begin to believe that anything that contradicts them is false.
The hardest part, for each individual, in addressing and dealing with this emerging technology, is not knowing what incoming data to trust. This means that when we read or see something that confirms a view we hold dear, we should question it, antagonize it, investigate it. We need to make sure we know why we believe what we believe, and not assume truth just because it feels right (or wrong) to us. As deepfakes threaten our reality in every aspect from education to crime to democracy, we must remain aware of what is being thrown at us. If not, it’s going to knock us over.
A CBC journalist has spread misinformation online and kept it up for days after being corrected. That journalist is CBC’s fake news spotter, Jeff Yates.
Yates tweeted on Tuesday in response to a post about TPM editor-at-large Andy Ngo being suspended from Twitter: “[Andy Ngo] was suspended for 12 hours and the fact you were able to tag him in this tweet means you know his account is back online.”
The problem? Virtually no part of the tweet by Yates was truthful.
Ngo was actually banned for stating information based on data from the Human Rights Commission in response to Chelsea Clinton. While Yates mentions a 12-hour suspension, in reality, it has continued for far longer.
This is because the suspension will only be removed once Andy removes his tweet. This means that Twitter is dictating his speech and refusing to allow Ngo to cite a statistical fact.
Looking at Ngo’s Twitter profile, one can see he has not posted since the suspension.
Furthermore, you are able to tag suspended accounts, without being back online.
Yates was told all of this by multiple individuals as a direct reply to his own tweet.
In response, the CBC journalist decided to keep his post up and to also post the following which appears to show an Emporer (himself) largely ignoring everything going on around him, potentially alluding to his own decision to ignore the information appearing in his screen.
The Post Millennial has reached out to Yates to ask why the post was kept up even after being informed that he was spreading misinformation. this is especially significant considering that his job involves spotting misinformation and in turn keeping the public informed on behalf of the public broadcaster.
We received no response by publication but will update the article should Yates respond.
Tens of thousands of tweets have flooded in, as it appears Facebook and Instagram—both owned by the Facebook Group—are experiencing vast technical difficulties, loading slowly for many users across the world.
Instagram published a response via Twitter that the tech giant is “aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing Facebook’s family of apps, including Instagram,” and promising to “get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”
WhatsApp is also reportedly experiencing issues.
See if your area is experiencing an outage on the maps below:
For a full, interactive outage map, click here.
265 websites worldwide, with 13 in Canada, are spewing fake news with Indian lobby money.
For instance, the New York Journal American, a daily newspaper that ran until 1966, was brought back online by the Srivastava Group.
A website shows the location of every news outlet that is controlled by the Srivastava Group.
The list of websites in Canada that are spewing, or have spewed, fake news are:
- The Acadian Recorder in Halifax, NS
- Times of New Brunswick in New Brunswick
- 24 Hours Montreal in Montreal, QC
- Canadian Illustrated News in Montreal, QC
- Quebec Telegraph in Quebec, QC
- The Jewish Tribune in Ottawa, ON
- Toronto Telegram in Toronto, ON
- Niagara News TV in Niagara, ON
- Times of Manitoba in Manitoba
- 24 Hours Edmonton in Edmonton, AB
- 24 Hours Calgary in Calgary, AB
- The Kamloops Daily News in Kamloops, BC
- 24 Hours Vancouver in Vancouver, BC
The NGO discovered EP Today, which is a “self-proclaimed magazine for the European Parliament”, publishing “a large number of articles and op-eds related to minorities in Pakistan as well as other India-related matters.”
“EU DisinfoLab quickly discovered that EP Today is managed by Indian stakeholders, with ties to a large network of think tanks, NGOs, and companies from the Srivastava Group. We also found that the IP address of the Srivastava Group is also home to the obscure online media ‘New Delhi Times’ and the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS), which are all based at the same address in New Delhi, India,” the report further said.
The New Delhi Times has close to 200 thousand followers and is, surprisingly, verified on Twitter.
IINS was the NGO that organized the visit of 27 European Members of Parliament to the Indian-administered region of Kashmir. This was an attempt by the Modi government to garner international support for his occupation of Kashmir. A good portion of those MEPs were from the far-right bloc in the EU Parliament.
The reason for these organizations and websites was listed by the NGO in their tweet:
The websites seem to have a lot in common. As the report, highlights:
- Most of them are named after a defunct local newspaper or spoof real media outlets;
- They republish content from several news agencies (KCNA, Voice of America, Interfax);
- Coverage of the same Indian-related demonstrations and events;
- Republications of anti-Pakistan content from the described Indian network (including EP Today, 4NewsAgency, Times Of Geneva, New Delhi Times);
- Most websites have a Twitter account.
Amidst calls for proactive measures on the global “climate crisis”, 11,258 scientists from 153 nations agreed with the findings in a recent BioScience publication. They warn of “untold suffering due to the climate crisis”.
Unless we commit to reproducing less, “transition” from fossil fuels, cut meat from our diets and end deforestation, the effects will only worsen, according to the publication.
The Liberal Party dogma echoes these sentiments. From using Inuit Canadians as props to giving fictitious sympathies to the prairies (having labelled them as “climate change deniers” in the past), the false moral platitudes undermine attempts for rational discourse.
When that discourse sours to the received wisdom being beyond reproach, and media mix education with indoctrination, society suffers as a result.
Yes, climate change is just that–a serious issue trumped up by alarmist rhetoric.
Like health care, education, and yes, even climate change, contentious issues such as these require honest debate, realistic goals, and a plan to achieve said policy aims. Combating climate change can occur without alienating large swaths of the population or moving to “phase out” entire industries.
While it is no secret that Albertans are the least receptive to coercive climate action, the backlash from a recent poll demonstrates how divisive mere inquiry can be. Suggesting an alternative to the carbon tax even constitutes the label of climate change denier.
Therefore, if it is true that “Scientists have a moral obligation…to ‘tell it like it is’, then, perhaps, the demonizing of one’s opponents, as the political left often does, is not how we save the world from the pending apocalypse.
Effectively, the climate change issue has become a means by which tragedy is politicized, opponents mischaracterized, and the genuine need to educate gone with the wind. It’s all about centralized control, increased taxation, and not the freedom to choose.
The recent High Level fire was not caused by climate change, but arson
The CBC pinned the devastating fire this summer near High Level and Chuckegg Creek on climate change, using wire copy from Canadian Press reporter Corlette Derworiz with the misleading headline “Alberta wildfires linked to climate change, scientist says”.
Despite the fires still raging, the CBC article began by spinning the story in service of the climate change narrative, before the smoke had settled and the cause of the fire was even established.
We now know from the release of the RCMP’s investigation that the largest of the fires around Chuckegg Creek and High Level were caused by arson, something that was made public on Oct. 22.
Of course, climate change will result in more wildfires. Nobody would contend that warmer weather makes for drier conditions, but in this case, the reporting was dishonest. Emphasizing a single factor without acknowledging other causes, including arson, was irresponsible.
The premier’s response at the time included the need for more context as to why this fire season may be worse than others, including but not limited to climate change.
“‘I accept the science on anthropogenic climate change,’ Kenney said in a news conference. “But, in this particular instance, I can tell you we are on the five-year average for forest fires in Alberta… The large one right now is happening in an area where there has not been a fire for 80 years, and so, regardless of other factors, it was due eventually for a large wildfire.’”
In our interview with the CP reporter, she said, “Kenney’s comments aren’t wrong, but fire scientists say they don’t tell the whole story,” which is ironic, given the original story included misleading quotes from the scientist she interviewed.
It all seemed quite strange that the quotes from Dr. Mike Flannigan, who has a Ph.D. in Plant Sciences, and who specializes in fire’s interaction with climate, would give such a lopsided take on the northern Alberta wildfires. His quotes, peppered throughout the article, read like climate change propaganda, which, now having talked to him, are deeply misrepresentative of his views.
A quote like “We are seeing climate change in action,” makes it sound like Dr. Flannigan is speaking on the northern Alberta wildfires, and like other quotes, are lacking in context, suspiciously short, and do not reflect something a respected environmental scientist would claim while a wildfire is still burning.
When we called Dr. Flannigan to ask why he seemingly had attributed the fires solely to the increased risks from climate change, the ensuing discussions pointed our concerns back to Derworiz’s piece that the all-too-credulous CBC published because it fit the public broadcaster’s confirmation bias.
Upon questioning him, it was soon evident that Dr. Flannigan is very detailed in the way he handles the issue of forest fires. The quotes included were tailored down to meet the CP’s and CBC’s climate change narrative.
As Dr. Flannigan put it:
“Media like sound bites of ten to thirty seconds, where, unfortunately, you can’t get into all that you know, but you try and hammer home the major points and often I do try. But it doesn’t always make it because things get cut, that the amount of human activity in northern Alberta has increased significantly. And so we’re seeing more impact because more people are living and working in the forest as compared to 40 years ago. So that’s why we’re seeing more Chuckegg Creeks, Slave Lakes, and Fort McMurray. It’s because there are more people there, and they’re starting fires.” Dr. Flannigan
When we followed up with the CP reporter to question the editorializing in her news article, she said it was unfair to expect her to get the cause of the fire correct as she had less information when she wrote the article. This misses the point entirely.
The issue is that CP wrote a story about the northern Alberta wildfires and linked them to climate change before having all of the evidence. Even if the cause of the major fires around Chuckegg Creek and High Level had been strongly linked to climate change, it would still not be correct to write the story before confirming that as factually accurate.
If you don’t have the information, then you don’t write the story. That’s how journalism works.
On the call, the reporter pivoted her position from climate change being linked to the fires to climate change, generally making wildfires worse, which is a palatable position, but not one that was portrayed in her article.
She deflected criticism of the information she presented back at Dr. Flannigan, stating, “I’m not giving you different information. The prof is the expert. He’s the guy that you should talk to.”
Dr. Flannigan told us, “I don’t usually like to go to individual events and say, yes, that’s a direct result of climate change.” That contradicts the premise of the article which broadly links all the fires, including those close to Chuckegg Creek and High Level, to climate change.
Again Dr. Flannigan had said that he doesn’t just give soundbites nor link causes or factors to fires while they are still burning. He will provide extensive information to anyone who comes looking for his expertise.
“Media wants a hook, and the more sensational, the better. So, I can sometimes talk for 40 minutes, and it will be reduced down to thirty seconds or twenty seconds, and they [only] take snippets. And sometimes it’s out of context, or at least it’s not complete. It’s incomplete. And yeah, I mean, it’s a very complex issue, and to reduce it to one point is–yeah.”
The CP reporter responded to us when asked if it was okay to run a story before getting in all the evidence, saying, “Well, I don’t think that is any different than Premier Kenney making statements about what he thinks caused the fire at the time.”
Having mentioned Premier Kenney’s response to the fire, she claimed her article was a response to his “strong statements.”
“I believe that is why we did that story at the time,” she states.
Though the author isn’t wholly to blame, the CBC is dogmatic on the climate change issue and gladly publishes alarmist rhetoric on their website regularly. Those opposing the so-called “climate crisis” are ex-communicated as “deniers”, while Greta Thunberg is given sainthood.
Based on this editorial trajectory, it isn’t a shock that the CBC has set up an incentive structure that could result in a biased, inaccurate piece being published without sober second thought.
It doesn’t seem to matter to them that a misreporting of the issue could impact the lives of people living in northern Alberta. People need to know accurate information on what caused a fire to be able to make an informed decision on continuing to live in the area or not.
For the record, the CBC never updated the original article or made any retraction of the information provided within.
Since CBC receives well over a billion dollars of taxpayer money annually, it would be nice if Canadians could rely on accurate information, especially in stressful situations like wildfires or extreme weather events where evacuations occurred.
While CBC and CP mislead Canadians, The Post Millennial provided quality coverage of the region, even before the fires
The importance of shining light on underreported issues with a large platform or spotlight is crucial—especially so as we make concerted efforts to mend historical injustices.
And speaking truth to power, including the mainstream, is vital for the free press to do so consistently, and to do right.