[ This commentary first appeared on the Digital Production Buzz. ]
I had an interesting conversation with a software developer earlier this week.
We got to talking about new technology which can invisibly make elements in videos such as edits, objects in the frame, even audio stutters disappear as if they did not exist in the original.
As I mentioned during our discussion, I’m increasingly uncomfortable with this type of technology because it directly enables sites that specialize in fake news to create video which looks “real,” but isn’t.
They responded that the answer is for consumers of content to be aware of the credibility of the sites they visit and only believe videos from reputable sites.
While this is always good advice, it isn’t always practical. Given the ubiquity of links, we don’t often know what site we’re visiting. Even reputable sites link to less than reputable sponsors. It seems to me that developers are refusing to acknowledge the responsibility they have for the proliferation of fake news. Fake news which is driving most of us nuts.
Who’s responsible for helping us determine what is “real?”
Developers, it seems to me, have a responsibility for the rest of us to be able to quickly tell if a video has been altered using the tools they’ve created. This information is sometimes buried deep in the invisible data of a movie file – but needs to be much more accessible.
This is such a two-edged sword. Clearly, as media creators, we often need to create images that look real yet don’t exist in real life; whether we are creating fantasy dragons, masking traffic signs in a period drama, or making actors fly who are actually connected to wires for their safety.
Yet, using these same tools, it is all too easy to take video that has been extensively modified yet pass it off as though it is “real.” At what point is it important for us to determine – not just guess, but KNOW – whether a video is displayed as shot or whether its been “Photoshopped?”
Technology is only going to make image manipulation easier and more invisible. If we don’t start having these conversations NOW about what is real and what is fake AND how to tell the difference; we will quickly move into a future where we have to assume that everything we see is fake. And that will be a sad day, indeed, when even what is real is fake.
Just something I’m thinking about. As always, let me know your thoughts.
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