Let us face it: we live in a world where nothing is certain. We have eyes to see, ears to hear and mind to think it through. However, can our senses be manipulated in such a way that we question our judgment? Deepfake is a relatively new term which appears as a result of various videos that seem to be real. If it looks like a duck and swims like a duck, it does not necessarily have to be a duck. Try explaining that to someone who has no access to the Internet. If you can find such a person that is. Everything is possible and everything can be manipulated.
You may have seen the video of Trump offering advices to the Belgians on climate change, which appeared quite realistic, until we were informed it had been a stunt by one of the Belgian political parties. The video was categorized as “deepfake” news, as if plain “fake news” was not enough to handle.
This type of videos can be developed through the usage of machine learning technique called a “generative adversarial network”, or a GAN. It has its own way of analyzing and mixing data to eventually generate its own version, which is a brand new one, but looks like a copy of the original. The method can be applied to visual, audio and text material. We can agree that this technique could be of use in the movie industry creating special effects and dubbing of foreign films. Although, we cannot but question ourselves to what extent this trend can reach.
Imagine the unregulated accessibility of this technology, because – why not? Everything is for sale nowadays. If not, people find the ways to reach certain resources if they look hard enough. Now, with unregulated use of this technology anyone in the world can make any kind of media file which, when played, can place fraudulent information that appear to be real. There is no society in this world that could potentially resist being manipulated. We could face tempering with processes and results of different races (being political, educational or any other kind), as well as with re-writing the history using fake info. Or destroying someone’s reputation by placing fake evidence, and these are just some of the possibilities.
The US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is one of the institutions which recognized the possible threat of this technology and decided to take a plunge into blockchain and to make use of the same modern technology surrounding us. This government agency reportedly acknowledged the fact that it is becoming harder to verify the documents and decided to make sure their data are well protected, verified and transparent. Being one of the institutions which regards public trust highly, the need to introduce blockchain has become crucial as it would enable authentication of digital copies of images and videos. According to Eric Douglas, Records Management Policy Specialist for the NARA’s chief records, the use of blockchain will “allow the public to independently verify whether digital content taken from NARA’s catalog has not been altered.”
As a quick reminder of what we wrote about in some of the previous posts, blockchain can provide the information on the provenance of each item, as well as on all the details relating to the production and handling of each item.
So far, the project has been in its pilot phase and we are yet to see the outcome. NARA reportedly successfully tested the blockchain with approximately 20,000 documents relating to the J.F. Kennedy’s assassination. Apart from the large retailers who have already incorporated blockchain in their management systems, there are also some of the state-owned institutions from various fields which expressed interest in transferring their business processes to blockchain. Food and Drug Administration is one of them.
We are looking forward to hearing your thoughts on whether other government agencies or companies should incorporate blockchain.