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Explained: What is deepfake?

The debate around “deepfakes” has been rekindled recently with the popularity of applications such as FaceApp (for photo-editing) and DeepNude ( that produces fake nudes of women).

Written by Mehr Gill |
Updated: July 29, 2019 3:09:38 pm
In May, a deepfake video of Tesla CEO Elon Musk where his face was morphed onto many toddlers doing random activities, from crawling to swinging, took the Internet by storm.

Deepfake is a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake”. It is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software that superimposes a digital composite on to an existing video (or audio).

The origin of the word “deepfake” can be traced back to 2017 when a Reddit user, with the username “deepfakes”, posted explicit videos of celebrities.

“The term first rose to prominence when Motherboard reported on a Reddit user who was using AI to superimpose the faces of film stars on to existing porn videos, creating (with varying degrees of realness) porn starring Emma Watson, Gal Gadot, Scarlett Johansson and an array of other female celebrities,” a report in The Guardian said. In June this year, a deepfake video surfaced that showed Mark Zuckerberg saying that he is in total control of the stolen data of billions of people.

Deepfakes are created by machine learning models, which use neural networks to manipulate images and videos. A model such as this “analyses video footage until it is able algorithmically to transpose the ‘skin’ of one human face on to the movements of another — as if applying a latex mask,” a separate report in The Guardian said.

The debate around “deepfakes” has been rekindled recently with the popularity of applications such as FaceApp (for photo-editing) and DeepNude ( that produces fake nudes of women).

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