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22 Feb 2018 15:55
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  •   Home > News > International

    Deepfakes: Websites move to ban pornographic creations as concern over face swap software grows

    Software that allows people to easily swap the faces of celebrities is being used to make pornography, prompting bans on some websites.


    Social media giants Twitter and Reddit are the latest websites to ban pornographic "deepfakes" — videos that swap one person's face for another.

    The practice has exploited a number of celebrities, including Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot and singer Taylor Swift.

    The technology has also been used to create comedy and satire; however, there are fears it could be abused to make propaganda.

    From Face/Off to FakeApp

    In 1997 actor Nicolas Cage played a terrorist in action movie Face/Off in which his face was swapped with a FBI agent, played by John Travolta.

    So late last year when the technique of face swapping became popular on Reddit, a website where users share and rate content, Cage was "cast" in a bunch of old movies.

    Suddenly the Con Air star could add films Man of Steel, Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lork Ark and Casino Royale to his credits.

    While the clips were obviously fake, some were more convincing than others.

    But the open source software making these Cage face-offs was also used to create realistic pornographic images and videos of celebrities.

    That was made increasingly easier by the app FakeApp, which only required a few pictures of a person to generate a so-called "deepfake".

    Amid growing concern, Reddit updated its site rules against "involuntary pornography" and banned forums, known as subreddits, dedicated to pornographic deepfakes.

    Other websites including Twitter, Pornhub and Gfycat have reportedly introduced similar policies.

    Barack Obama's speech that never happened

    Swapping faces is not a new thing, but recent developments in technology have made it easier to do and harder to detect.

    Researchers from the University of Washington last year superimposed former US president Barack Obama's face onto a computer generated mouth that could say anything they wanted.

    Their method required hours of video of the same person, like a powerful political leader, and an algorithm to create the convincing lip sync.

    Snippets of Mr Obama's voice — and the voice of an Obama impersonator — could then be used in the video to pass it off as real.

    The process did require the researchers to manually map out Mr Obama's teeth in videos to match it up with the fake speech.

    However, they believed that step could be automated in future work by creating a program that automatically trained in on large, clear white teeth.

    'Tis but a face swap

    Not all face swaps are sinister.

    Huw Parkinson creates satirical videos for ABC's Insiders by inserting Australian and international political figures into popular films and TV shows.

    He even won a Walkley Award for his work in 2015.

    In 2016 his mash-up featuring Donald Trump in a Game of Thrones-like saga went global and made the cover of the New York Post.

    Here's one of his most watched videos from last year:

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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