Updated: July 21, 2022
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You will learn

Disinformation is dangerous. And deceptive videos have the power to spread quickly across social feeds — whether a malicious editor spends five minutes or five weeks working on them. Learn how cheap fakes and deepfakes fit into the world of online misinformation.

False videos can be created using sophisticated technology and artificial intelligence. But most of the video-based misinformation you see online was likely created using simple video editing software, or even with no software at all, if the video was presented out of context.

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  1. What are deepfakes?
  2. Is deepfake technology something we should be concerned about? Why or why not?

Watch MediaWise Campus Correspondent Vanessa Handy as she walks you through what deepfakes and cheap fakes are:

Read the video transcript (PDF)


What to look for in a deepfake

The technology for creating deepfakes is only getting better but it’s not perfect. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Teeth might look weird
  • Blotchy, uneven skin tone
  • No blinking
  • Awkward facial expressions
  • Bad hair day
  • Voice is off

Deepfakes may be tough to spot with the naked eye but you may use a tool called Deepware to help detect them. Keep in mind that while tools like this may be helpful, they are not flawless.

How to identify cheap fakes

Disinformers can cherry-pick video clips from real videos and rearrange them into a false narrative. They might just remove certain sections — even a few seconds — of legitimate footage to change a video’s context. When you doubt the credibility of the video, use advanced search techniques and tools, along with the three questions from the Stanford History Education Group: 1. Who is behind the info? 2. What’s the evidence? 3. What do other sources say?

Entertainment or misinformation? Labeling matters

A simple rule of thumb is to look for labels — either in the video or the description — that tell you whether the content is created for entertainment. For example, the Tom Cruise deepfakes are clearly labeled as such by including the @deeptomcruise TikTok handle with bold type on the video. Other times, you may see this clarification in the accompanying description or the “about” section. When the description doesn’t provide sufficient detail, it’s worth going back to the three questions and looking into this further. When there are no labels and no sources cited, that’s a red flag.

It’s your turn!

Explore @deeptomcruise on TikTok. Pick one of the videos and then run it through Deepware.

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Deepfakes and cheap fakes can be fun when used for entertainment but they are extremely dangerous when they are designed to manipulate your opinion. When something seems questionable, take a moment to verify it before sharing it online.