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Initiatives on TikTok against deepfakes

May 30, 2022

As misinformation in the form of deepfake has taken over the web and jeopardizes the moral rules of using technology to inform a population, its impact on the democracy of access to information becomes a cognitive fraud within our society that must be denounced.

Since April 2021, researchers and students from the Faculty of Education, Educational Technology and Design of Laval University and Concordia University, under the leadership of Nadia Naffi, holder of the Chair of Leadership in Education (CLE) on Innovative Pedagogical Practices in Digital Context – National Bank of Laval University are conducting a research project on Digital Agentivity to counteract misinformation in the form of hypertrust.

The popularity of misinformation seems more virulent on social networks than anywhere else on the net. Any malicious individual will be able to create a deepfake and publish it in order to deceive groups of people at their convenience. The creators of these videos favor the social media TikTok, the preferred place to publish deepfakes.

For this reason, and as part of the project, I was asked to identify actions taken by the general public on the TikTok platform to raise awareness of the dangers of deepfakes.

Awareness of misinformation

Following a systematic research on TikTok about deepfakes, an observation was made: despite the fact that today the platform is also used for professional and educational purposes with high quality sources, some individuals comfortably use this social network to spread misinformation. Users have therefore taken the medium by storm with the initiative to raise awareness of the reality and danger of deepfakes. In the videos consulted during the research, there was no scientific documentation, no or little training on the subject, no high quality video or sound (with a few exceptions), but people who felt the need to raise awareness and express themselves on this scourge. Yes, people like you and me who decided to take the initiative to speak out about the reality of this scourge.

Whether the message sent by these users, concerning the misuse of technology to deceive their audience, is humorous or in a more reserved tone, 5 categories of initiatives have emerged.

What are deepfakes?

Awareness videos are circulating to highlight the reality of the existence of misinformation through videos; what we need to remember about this reality that affects us all in order to explain what is meant by deepfake, show what a misleading news image means, how a fake video that transmits false information can seem so real to most of us and finally, how a video can be real, but be used in a false context.

Thanks to these initiatives, it becomes much clearer to understand what a deepfake is for those who are not familiar with it.

How to make a deepfake?

In order to demonstrate the ease of creating deepfakes, videos showcase the production steps, the tools used, the live experience of a user creating a deepfake, or how to deceive the public with fake crisis scenes.

Initiatives like these allow the public to see with their own eyes that creating a deepfake is possible for most minimally tech-savvy users.

How to recognize a deepfake?

Some users try to demonstrate that it can be very difficult to recognize the real from the fake in a video, others try to demonstrate how it is possible to detect a deepfake and what means are used to identify them.

While these initiatives are intended to help the public who are left alone with so many deceptive projections, the task of demystifying deception is still quite daunting.

Warning about deepfakes

To warn TikTok users about the reality of deepfakes, videos are circulating to warn the population about the danger of the applications used to create decoys, to sensitize young people to think before exposing photos on social networks, to denounce the misuse of technology, or to react to the virulence of this type of video.

These warnings represent initiatives to protect users from the harmful effects and likely consequences of deepfakes.

Reporting deepfakes

While some do it with a humorous touch, others express their experience of impersonation on social networks with the intention of circulating false information, others go straight to the point and show step by step how to report a deepfake.

When an individual realizes that he/she is facing a fake video, he/she should report it.

This research I did on the reality of deepfakes on TikTok led me to take a different look at the initiatives established in our society to limit the damage of their consequences. Indeed, it has been possible to demonstrate that everyone is willing to go a long way to raise awareness, warn and better understand the possible danger of deepfakes. Thanks to TikTok users who have created videos on this topic, the end of the story on deepfakes-related initiatives is the following: let’s talk about it for good or for bad, but let’s talk about it!