Deepfakes are videos in which the subject is face-swapped using machine-learning algorithms. The practice was created by Redditor Deepfakes, who launched a dedicated subreddit to share the videos in November 2017. In January 2018, the FakeApp desktop application was released as a tool for creating the digitally altered videos.
On November 2nd, 2017, Redditor deepfakes created the /r/deepfakes subreddit as a place to share his digitally-altered sexually explicit videos in which the subject's face was swapped with a celebrity or public figure. According to the Redditor, the technology uses open-source libraries Keras and TensorFlow to perform the face-swaps.
On January 8th, 2018, the deepfakeapp Reddit account announced the launch of FakeApp, an application described as "a desktop tool for creating deepfakes." That month, the /r/fakeapp subreddit dedicated to discussions about the software gathered upwards of 2,500 subscribers. On January 30th, the /r/facesets subreddit was launched for users to share sets of face images extracted for the creation of deepfakes.
Nic Cage Videos
On January 25th, 2018 Redditor derpfakes posted a video in the /r/deepfakes subreddit, a community where in which people use a deep-learning application called FakeApp to replace the faces of people in videos, of Andy Samberg’s replaced with Nicolas Cage’s. The video (shown below) received more than 600 upvotes (97% upvoted) and 20 comments.
Several days later, derpfakes pasted Cage’s face onto Amy Adam’s from the film Man of Steel. The post (shown below, left) received more than 2,000 points (98% upvoted) and 90 comments. Additionally, on January 26th, derpfakes put Cage’s head on Harrison Ford’s in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark (shown below, right).
On December 11th, 2017, the Vice technology news site Motherboard published an article titled "AI-Assisted Fake Porn Is Here and We’re All Fucked," which contained interviews with various experts about the ethical implications of deepfakes technology. On January 24th, Motherboard published a follow-up article on the FakeApp program titled "We Are Truly Fucked: Everyone Is Making AI-Generated Fake Porn Now." On January 31st, 2018, YouTuberPhilip DeFranco uploaded a video discussing DeepFakes and FakeApp.
On January 27th, 2018, the Derpfakes YouTube channel was released, which features work-safe videos created with deepfakes software. Within one month, the channel received more than 400,000 video views and 1,300 subscribers.
On January 31st, 2018, the media-hosting site Gfycat began removing all deepfakes-related media. That day, Motherboard published an article about the purge, which included a statement from a Gfycat spokesperson who revealed the company was "actively removing this content."
On February 7th, 2018, the /r/deepfakes subreddit was banned by Reddit staff for violating the site's content policy "against involuntary pornography" (shown below). Additionally, Reddit also removed the /r/deepfakensfw, /r/youtubefakes, /r/CelebFakes, /r/doppelbangher, /r/facesets and /r/xray subreddits.
"Reddit strives to be a welcoming, open platform for all by trusting our users to maintain an environment that cultivates genuine conversation. As of February 7, 2018, we have made two updates to our site-wide policy regarding involuntary pornography and sexual or suggestive content involving minors. These policies were previously combined in a single rule; they will now be broken out into two distinct ones. Communities focused on this content and users who post such content will be banned from the site."
That day, a thread about the banning reached the front page of /r/KotakuInAction. Meanwhile, Redditor admin landoflobsters submitted a post to /r/announcements about the site-wide rules update. Also on February 7th, several news sites published articles about the ban, including The Verge, Inverse and BoingBoing.
Voat and 8chan
On February 16th, 2018, Reddit banned the /r/FakeApp subreddit, a community dedicated to work-safe video created with the Fake App software, leaving a notice that it had been banned for violating their policy against "involuntary pornography." That day, The Daily Dot published an article about the ban, noting that a recent cache of the subreddit's front page was "dominated by technical discussed of the software, mixed in with some non-porn fakes."
Obama BuzzFeed PSA
On April 17th, 2018, BuzzFeed tweeted a video deepfake of former President Barack Obama played by Get Out-director Jordan Peele. The post received more than 13,000 retweets and 29,000 likes in 24 hours. That day, the video was also posted on YouTube (shown below), where it received more than 100,000 views in less than 24 hours.
The video warns of the technology that can be used to deceive viewers. In the piece, Peele says, "This is a dangerous time. Moving forward, we need to be more vigilant with what we trust from the internet."
@BuzzFeedNews followed the post by tweeting tips for identifying these kinds of fakes. They wrote, "Here’s how to avoid falling for fake videos like this one: 1) Don’t jump to conclusions 2) Consider the source 3) Check where else it is (and isn’t) online 4) Look closely at the speaker’s mouth 5) Slow the video down." The post (shown below) received more than 350 retweets and 750 likes in 24 hours.
Intelligence Community Report
On September 13th, 2018, three lawmakers sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence demanding a report on deepfakesby mid-December 2018. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), the letter's authors, wrote to Director Daniel Coats, urging him to investigate Deep Fakes, which, they argue, could be a national security issue and could be used by hostile foreign nations or other nefarious actors.
The letter reads:
Forged videos, images or audio could be used to target individuals for blackmail or for other nefarious purposes Of greater concern for national security, they could also be used by foreign or domestic actors to spread misinformation. As deep fake technology becomes more advanced and more accessible, it could pose a threat to United States public discourse and national security, with broad and concerning implications for offensive active measures campaigns targeting the United States.