Jordan Peele’s simulated Obama PSA is a double-edged warning against fake news

This deepfaked warning against deepfakes almost makes its point too well.

Jordan Peele just used deepfakes — the nightmarish dystopian tool we last saw being used to generate fake celebrity porn — to deliver the deepest fake of them all.

The Get Out director teamed up with his brother-in-law, BuzzFeed Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti, to produce a public service announcement made by Barack Obama.

Obama’s message? Don’t believe everything you see and read on the internet.

“It may sound basic, but how we move forward in the age of information is going to be the difference between whether we survive or whether we become some kind of fucked-up dystopia,” Obama tells viewers in the BuzzFeed Buzzfeed video. He also declares that Black Panther’s villain Killmonger was “right” about his plan for world domination, “Ben Carson is in the Sunken Place” — a reference to one of the heartiest memes from Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out screenplay — and Trump is a “dipshit.”

As anyone who’s familiar with deepfakes has guessed by now, “Obama” in this video is actually Peele himself, doing his famous interpretation of the former president. The algorithmic machine learning technology of deepfakes allows anyone to create a very convincing simulation of a human subject given ample photographic evidence on which to train the machine about what the image should look like.

Given the sheer amount of media coverage around Obama, it was fairly easy for BuzzFeed’s Buzzfeed’s video producer Jared Sosa to create the simulation — though to get the simulation right still required 56 hours of training the machine, according to BuzzFeed’s Buzzfeed’s report on the video.

“Deepfakes” is the term coined by a Reddit user who made a script for the process and released it onto a subreddit he made, also called deepfakes. Another user took that script and modified it into a downloadable program, FakeApp. But although the term first came to the world’s attention in conjunction with celebrity porn, the first complex face-capturing tools used to demonstrate the techniques deployed by FakeApp were originally applied to manipulating political figures.

A 2016 research experiment saw the technique being applied to world leaders like George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, and Obama. Subsequent research applied the technique just to Obama — and the researchers were immediately wary of the monster they’d created.

“You can’t just take anyone’s voice and turn it into an Obama video,” Steve Seitz, one of the researchers, stated in a press release. “We very consciously decided against going down the path of putting other people’s words into someone’s mouth.”

Barely six months later, deepfakes was born. And as Peele and BuzzFeed Buzzfeed have proven, you clearly can just take anyone’s voice and turn it into an Obama video — provided the voice is convincing enough.

Though Reddit ultimately banned all faked porn generated via deepfakes, the Pandora’s box of fake reality generation has been opened, and anything — from Obama to Nicolas Cage — is fair game.

Given all this context, it’s arguable that Peele’s contribution might not actually be helping people understand how serious the potential for reality distortion is, so much as giving them a taste of how fun this tech might be to play around with.

Still, in the age of “fake news,” Peele and Peretti clearly felt the message was timely. “We’re entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything at any point in time,” the PSA begins.

Point proven.

Jordan Peele’s simulated Obama PSA is a double-edged warning against fake news
By Aja Romano

April 18, 2018 at 12:00PM
via Vox – All