As India grapples with how to stop the spread of misinformation online, a new generation of digital forgery technologies threatens to upend whatever progress has been made thus far. Deepfake, a new suite of technologies, uses powerful machine learning to copy and superimpose the voice, face and speaking style from one person onto another. Early versions produced choppy and unconvincing results, but they’ve come a long way since. Across the internet, hobbyists have used the technology to create entertainment, pornography and art—sometimes with devastating personal consequences.
Media has focused on how deepfake can be used to spread propaganda or spark military conflicts, but the larger threat is that the technologies can be weaponised and targeted against individuals and businesses. Exaggeration, taking things out of context and outright lies have existed long before the internet. What deepfake changes is that it’s now far cheaper and easier for anybody to create synthetic evidence for whatever purpose they want.