Deepfake Queen Elizabeth II will deliver 'alternative' Christmas message
Almost every year since 1952, Queen Elizabeth II of the UK has given a Christmas address to the crowds, and 2020 will be no different. Shortly after she made her comments, however, British broadcaster Channel 4 will broadcast an “alternative message” from the Queen, brought to life by fake software and an actress with a pseudo-royal affect.
"At the BBC, I could not always speak clearly and from the heart," said the "Queen" in a promo that was published on the station's Twitter. "So I'm grateful to Channel 4 for giving me the opportunity to say what I want without anyone putting words into my mouth."
There is relatively little risk that someone will look at the Channel 4 fake and see it as a real message from the Queen. Aside from the fact that actress Debra Stephenson just doesn't make a good impression, the topics allegedly up for discussion are - an open portrayal of Harry and Meghan's departure from the royal family and the story of Prince Andrew with financier and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein - far away field of the typical Queen-ly protocol. And from a technical point of view, the pictures shown here are not entirely lifelike. Such gaps in truthfulness are not uncommon with deepfakes.
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To create these types of treated images, neural networks must be trained with as much footage as possible of the person who is to be forged. Once that is done, the "understanding" of what the subject looks like can be used to map the original face to someone else. Advances in machine learning and the hardware that runs it are making deepfakes easy for small teams and individuals. However, creating truly compelling fakes requires a level of sophistication that few seem to have mastered. Good or bad, this attempt is easy to see through.
Channel 4 said the news was intended to serve as a “strong warning” of the worrying potential of fake news and tampered with news, and the station's programming director told The Guardian that the video “is a strong reminder that we can no longer trust our own Eyes".
Channel 4's intent may have been to educate, but that hasn't stopped the national broadcaster from getting excited about the stunt. Since the teaser was shared on Twitter last night, the service has lit up with people mocking the decision (among other things) because of its perceived bad taste and disrespect, as well as the potential it has for people's reaction to deepfakes in the US could have a future:
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