Visual Boundaries and the Phenomenon of Deep Fakes

Abstract: Over the last ten years, advances in computational technologies, commercially available and open-source software, and visual culture have increasingly contributed to rapidly changing information ecosystem. Some malicious uses of these disruptive technologies are manipulating and blurring the lines of objective media and communication at local and global levels. For example, misinformation campaigns using Facebook and other platforms have led to violence in Sudan, Darfur, and Sri Lanka. Smear campaigns were used against investigative journalist during the Rohingya crises in Myanmar. However, synthetic media known as ‘Deep Fakes’ are causing more alarm. Deep Fakes raise concerns on a number of issues like consent, privacy, and civil liberties. The phenomenon of Deep Fakes bend reality and the danger lies in their inherent ability to leak into other domains including private lives. For example, Deep Fakes have been used in revenge porn and blackmail against women. Also, Deep Fakes challenge citizen journalism and impact public trust which poses an existential threat to liberal democracies and objective reality. Deep Fakes can be equally destructive in places with weaker institutions and especially in regions with lower rates of digital literacy. Other worrying trends include Deep Fakes being used by the powerful, and authoritarian governments using fabricated visual evidence in kangaroo courts and the rise of forced confessions. These are only a few examples of how Deep Fakes can have a stigmatizing effect in the contemporary mediascape. What are social media platforms doing about Deep Fakes? Where is the border line for satire? Can we afford to wait for governments and social media platforms to regulate these activities? Who are the people that should be concerned about deviant uses of Deep Fakes? When minor characters are threatened with Deep Fakes how can they prove their innocence? Clearly, the average citizen is more vulnerable than people in positions of power. From average citizens to powerful states, negative consequences and malicious uses of Deep Fakes cause the need for further investigation. What truths do Deep Fakes reveal and how do they impact public trust?

Keywords: Deep Fakes, synthetic media, mediascape, visual culture