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Understanding How Deepfakes are Supercharging Fake News and Ways to Spot Them

By Mohammed Dahiru Lawal

Imagine not being able to trust what you hear or see when you watch a video online, a celebrity seen in a scandal that generates controversy but that celebrity was never actually in that video, a politician delivers a disastrous speech on the eve of an election but he never said those words, or a religious figure incites violence in a mammoth crowd but never was there in flesh. I am talking about Deep Fakes which are manipulated media; video, audio or both where someone’s likeness is replaced with someone else’s likeness, where people can be made to appear as if they have said or done something that never actually happened, but merely digital altering of contents.  

This involves digitally altering media contents to show whatever the generator intends to display. The technology can create convincing but entirely fictional photos or videos from scratch and has already attained notoriety in places like the United States. For instance, a deepfake video featuring the likeness of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stating that “whoever controls the data, controls the future” surfaced on the Internet on the eve of United States Congressional hearings on Artificial Intelligence he was scheduled to attend at the time.

Such a trend no doubt supercharges the spread of intentional falsehood as actual news designed to advance a malicious goal. 

The first deepfakes surfaced in 2017 when a Reddit user posted several pornographic videos with simulated celebrity faces. Since then, deep fakes have come a long way, with fewer and fewer training images or videos required for algorithms to generate believable versions of real people’s faces. One expert predicts entirely realistic deep fakes could be possible in as little as six months.

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Tip of The Week


There’s precious little that we can do about the barrage of misinformation that we see daily, but there’s a lot we can do together if we learn to identify suspicious claims in the news and refrain from fuelling the fire by spreading them! Here are our top picks of likely-to-be-false news which [sadly] couldn’t be fact-checked.

CLAIM: MTN offers old SIM free 10GB data

SOURCE: Viral WhatsApp Message

A WhatsApp message with an attached link claims MTN is offering its old users 10GB worth of data. The message urges readers to click on the attached links if their SIM cards have been in use for over a year.  Sounds familiar? Exactly! Countless times, in the past, DUBAWA had confirmed similar messages with links offering juicy rewards such as cash prices, airtime, data etc to the public to be fraudulent and deceptive. 

Questions to ask yourself: Who is the source? Is it suspicious? Does it sound too good? Is the information on MTN’s website? 

What you should do: Verify before clicking on suspicious links. 

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