The Challenge of Deepfakes and the Need for Institutions

What are Deepfakes? Fake videos that are too good for most people to tell apart from the real thing.

These have long been used for entertainment, but it is clear the dangers that these can pose to the political and informational system. Unfortunately, we have to start treating videos with as much skepticism as we do images and news articles – they can all be faked, and the most damaging fakes are the ones that are only subtly faked and highly credible. They can and will deceive the cleverest and most scrutinizing of viewers – yes, even you.
There are two ways around this: either require that everything you believe be seen live with your own eyes – in which case all digital news and media becomes useless – or trust in institutions that can do the research for you. The latter is more difficult, yes, but the truth is we do this already, all the time. People cannot be experts in every aspect of modern life; some things have to be taken on trust in competent regulatory authorities. How would a layman with no particular interest in science even know where to start finding out the efficacy of medicines? Is everyone an expert in automobile safety, consumer financial products, food safety, product safety, medicine, law, building codes, etc.? No one can be. You and I take some of those things on trust in authorities or we live the most joyless life imaginable. We simply have to add “news” to this list. It must be regulated in the way that medicines had to be regulated after babies were being given cocaine and influenza was being treated with river water.
Unless we embrace regulatory bodies and authoritative institutions to help us sort through this coming quagmire, we are left crippled and blinded to any news or information whatsoever. Institutions that embrace peer-review, that embrace criticism, that embrace transparency – those are to be trusted. We have to. Modern civilization depends on it.


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