ExplainersMedia Literacy

Seven tools often used by ‘disinformants’ to create fake narratives

Sometime last year, a video circulated on social media falsely showing Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, announcing a surrender after Russia invaded the country. 

In another video, a news anchor with perfectly combed dark hair outlined what he saw as the United States’ shameful lack of action against gun violence.

But none of the videos was real. The broadcasters in the video were not real people. Their voices were stilted and failed to sync with the movement of their mouths. New York Times analysis revealed that their faces were pixelated, video-game quality, and their hair appeared unnaturally plastered to the head.

These are computer-generated avatars created by artificial intelligence (AI) software. “Deepfake” technology has progressed steadily for nearly a decade and can create talking digital puppets. The A.I. software is sometimes used to distort public figures. But the software can also create characters out of whole cloth, going beyond traditional editing software and expensive special effects tools used by Hollywood, blurring the line between fact and fiction to an extraordinary degree.

With few laws to manage the spread of the technology, disinformation experts have long warned that deepfake videos could further serve people’s ability to discern reality from forgeries online, potentially being misused to set off unrest or incept a political scandal. Those predictions have now become a reality in many ways.

Here are seven tools used by ‘disinformants’ to create fake narratives.

1. Break your own news

This platform generates fake sake-breaking news on a popular news channel. It allows users to use a picture, write a story headline and publish. 

The app’s founders clarified that the “software is intended for fun, humour and parody – be careful what you make and how it may be shared. You should avoid making things unlawful, defamatory or likely to cause distress. Have fun and be kind!”

However, the tool is being used by disinformation to create fake narratives.

2. Tweetgen

Tweetgen is an online fake Tweet generator. It is easy to use and supports light, dim and dark themes. Users can customise every element of the fake tweet, including date, time, number of likes and retweets, username, and Twitter clients, such as Twitter Web App, iPhone, Android, etc.

The app is updated with most of Twitter’s current features. For instance, it has options for verified check marks and a feature like a retweet count.

3. Prank me not

With Prank me not, You can create a Facebook status post and fake comments on a post that doesn’t exist. The customisation screen is very easy to use. It allows users to upload profile pictures, write statuses, select likes, add comments and many more cool features.

Once you upload photos and texts, the wall comes alive. Then you can edit almost anything like comments, likes, events, etc. Once you are done, it gives the option to click on save to share it with your friends. 

4. Emkei mailer

Emkei mailer is used to forge or create fake emails. The tool is also used to spoof an email address, send fake emails, or create a screenshot of a fake email.

5. Fodey

It’s a web service used to generate fake stories in the newspaper. To generate a fake newspaper clipping with Fodey, users only need to fill a space with the newspaper name, date, and headline and write any story they want to share. Although direct linking to the newspaper’s clippings doesn’t work, users can download the newspaper as images and share them on their websites or blogs.

6. Fake Bills, Salary Slips, Receipts, and Invoices

This is a free web app for creating all types of bills and receipts online. It welcomes users to select a receipt from its “extensive collection of receipt templates.” 

The templates can be personalised by adding logos and text. It is also printable or downloadable. 

7. Deepfakes web

Used to generate deep fake videos. The Deepfakes App is online deepfake software that works in the cloud. All you need to do is upload videos and click a button. Then the app does the rest.

However, every deepfake generated on the app has a clear and visible watermark indicating that the video is a deepfake. It also leaves clear traces of manipulation in the video data, so it’s easy to identify as fake. “We believe deepfake technology should be clearly labelled,” app owners said.

But deepfake technology is incredibly advanced and can easily fool humans. 

The technology is leveraged for entertainment, gaming, satire, and culture. 

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