Have you seen videos of well-known media personalities being used to advertise cannabis companies or investment opportunities that seem too good to be true? The chances are that what you are viewing is a deepfake – media that is manipulated and fabricated using artificial intelligence.
Jeff Horncastle, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s (CAFC) client and communications officer, has warned Canadians about the rising trend of fraudsters using deepfakes to promote cryptocurrency platforms and other scams. He explains that all fraudsters need is a photo or short audio clip of the person they want to deepfake, to give the illusion of legitimacy.
These deepfakes often feature U.S. TV personalities, such as Gayle King, Tucker Carlson and Bill Maher, as well as CTV National News’ Chief News Anchor and Senior Editor Omar Sachedina. In one of the ads, Sachedina appears to be presenting a news item, but instead is promoting a cannabis company – the audio is fake. Another video features Tesla founder Elon Musk selling stock in fraudulent crypto companies.
Creating a deepfake used to require a highly skilled individual with exclusive technical software. However, now anyone with an average knowledge of AI and access to a gaming computer can spread misinformation through the likeness of a well-known figure. These deepfakes can be particularly dangerous during important political events, as evidenced by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was seen in a deepfake video announcing his withdrawal from the 2024 U.S. presidential election race.
Google has taken steps to shut down false claims and denounce phony photographs by adding watermark warnings to AI-generated images. But the concern over the potential spread of disinformation remains, as the technology to create deepfakes is only getting better.
To identify a deepfake, focus on the outline of the person compared to the background, including their hair and areas around their face, especially when the speaker is moving. Also, ask yourself why certain media personalities would be promoting products outside of their interest, and why they would be promoting anything at all if it’s not something they normally do. Do your research about the companies behind these products before buying from them.