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The Hmm on… Deepfakes

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The newest weapon for spreading fake news, or just good fun? Deepfake videos, where two clashing worlds morph together in one ‘fake’ image, are circulating the world wide web now more than ever.

Dit is een Engelstalig programma. Voor Nederlandse tekst, zie onderaan.

Seeing is not believing: tonight The Hmm, a platform for internet cultures, dives into deepfake videos, the so-called ‘synthetic’ or fake media being spread on the internet in large quantities. Which new dangers do they pose, and how do we deal with them?

With a deepfake video, don’t just think of Nicolas Cage sitting next to Nicolas Cage and imitating himself, or Mr. Bean emerging from a golden bath like a sexy Charlize Theron. Think also of Barack Obama’s public service announcement, Nancy Pelosi stumbling through a speech, and Mark Zuckerberg finally confessing to the total control that Facebook has over its users and their data. These videos spread through our digital feeds, showing us what deepfake technologies can achieve. Is this the end of our trust in video?

The 2016 U.S. election and the Brexit referendum opened the public’s eyes to the influence and consequences of ‘fake news’ spread on our social media channels. Universally distributing this fake news, deepfakes pose a new threat to our fragile sense of reality. With the U.S. presidential elections happening this fall, and increasing political polarisation throughout the EU, there are concerns that a convincing deepfake video of a political candidate could harm our democracy.

This evening, we ask ourselves: is being afraid of deepfake videos a productive attitude? Is the strong influence on elections of ‘fake news’ the problem or are the existing structures of our political systems to blame? And do deepfake videos also have a creative potential?

The Hmm on…

We’re using face filters to make ourselves prettier, track our daily steps on our iPhones, and rely on Google Maps to find our destination. But what exactly is the impact of these technologies? With this series organised by The Hmm, a platform for internet cultures, we reflect on these playful, serious, and sometimes disturbing developments in internet culture.

Nederlandse tekst

Vanavond geloof je je eigen ogen niet, want: we duiken samen met The Hmm, platform voor internet culture, in deepfake video’s. Deze ‘synthetische’ (of moeten we zeggen, plastic?), fake media wordt in grote hoeveelheden op het internet verspreid, soms hilarisch, maar vaak gevaarlijk. Wat zijn deze nieuwe gevaren precies en hoe gaan we ermee om?

Denk bij een deepfake-video niet enkel aan Nicolas Cage die naast Nicolas Cage zit en zichzelf nadoet, of Mr. Bean die als een sexy Charlize Theron uit een gouden bad opduikt. Denk ook aan Nancy Pelosi die haar speech verhakkelt of Mark Zuckerberg die eindelijk de totale controle toegeeft die Facebook heeft over zijn gebruikers en hun gegevens. De fake video’s verspreiden zich op onze feeds en laten ons zien wat deepfake-technologieën zoal kunnen bereiken. Zijn we aan het einde van ons vertrouwen in video?

Deze avond zullen we ons afvragen: is de angst voor deepfake-video’s een productieve houding? Is de sterke invloed op verkiezingen of fake news het probleem of zijn de bestaande structuren van onze politieke systemen de schuldigen? En hebben deepfake-video’s ook een creatief potentieel?


Giorgio Patrini

Giorgio is founder and CEO of Deeptrace, an organisation that is researching and mapping the deepfake landscape. In their 2019 report, ‘The State Of Deepfakes: Landscape, Threats and Impact’, they revealed that the deepfake phenomenon is growing rapidly. Over the last seven months the number of deepfake videos has almost doubled, spurred on by the growing tools and services which lower the barrier for non-experts to create deepfakes. Giorgio will show how deepfakes are used now and what we should be careful of in the future.

Jaron Harambam

Jaron Harambam works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam, where he is part of the multidisciplinary Fair News project in which he investigates the role of algorithms in news provision. He defended his doctorate (cum laude, highest distinction) in October 2017 at the Rotterdam Center for Cultural Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam, entitled: “The Truth Is Out There” – Conspiracy Culture in an Age of Epistemic Instability.

Lenka Hamosova

During her talk at The Hmm last year, Lenka showed us how she used deepfake technology to make herself smile on a picture. Lenka is an independent research designer and visual speculator from Prague. With her project The Collective Vision of Synthetic Reality she collects people’s ideas about how the post-deepfake reality will look and how AI-generated and synthetic media will settle in our visual culture. Tonight Lenka will show us the creative potential of deepfakes.