Snapchat Cameos: A Feature That Uses Deepfake Technology
Thu, April 22, 2021

Snapchat Cameos: A Feature That Uses Deepfake Technology

Fake news has become increasingly more evident in today's society, circulating on social media platforms mostly for political purposes. It became even worse when deepfakes entered the scene / Photo by: georgejmclittle via 123RF

 

Fake news has become increasingly more evident in today's society, circulating on social media platforms mostly for political purposes. It became even worse when deepfakes entered the scene. Deepfakes are artificial intelligence-manipulated content that uses a person’s existing image or video and replaces them with someone else’s likeness.

But the manipulation of images and videos of people for malign content is nothing new. It was first used during the 1940s for Hitler propaganda. Deepfakes did not come to the forefront of the computer-driven world until the mid-1990s with Video Rewrite, a project that altered existing video footage of people to make them seem as if they were mouthing the words. It has only improved since then.

A 2019 study conducted by Amsterdam-based cybersecurity company Deeptrace discovered that there was a rise in deepfakes last year, with 14,698 deepfake videos on the internet. The figure was 84% higher compared to only 7,964 deepfakes last December 2018. According to Tech Times, an online site that reports news on the latest technology, 96% of all deepfakes currently consist of pornographic content.

“Our data showed that the majority were actually still of actors but with a notable minority of corporate and political leaders. I think this can be attributed to the mechanism of vitality that is associated with non-pornographic deepfakes. The creators are primarily hobbyists who are trying to create the high-quality fakes,” Giorgio Patrini, founder of Deeptrace, said. 

Why Deepfakes Are Dangerous

Deepfakes mislead the public. They look so genuine that it is almost impossible to distinguish them from reality. Most of the time, politicians and celebrities are the victims of deepfakes. For instance, scientists from the University of Washington used a neural network AI to mimic Barack Obama’s voice and gestures. Famous personalities are commonly used because their public profiles provide ample source material for AI to learn from. However, anyone could be used as a source as the number of selfies an average person increases as the years pass.

Using generative adversarial networks (GANs), deepfakes are created most effectively. The larger the set of training data, the easier it is for the forger to create a believable deepfake. Today, people are most concerned about how deepfakes can be used to discredit anyone, especially politicians. According to Forbes, a global media company focusing on business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, and lifestyle, deepfakes are now being prepared for the 2020 election cycle across the world. This could have a profound and permanent impact on future elections and political discourse. 

According to CSO Online, an online site that offers the latest information and best practices on business continuity and data protection, Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida and 2016 presidential candidate, called deepfake technology the modern equivalent of nuclear weapons. In the past, a country would have needed nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to threaten the US. “Today, you just need access to our internet system, to our banking system, to our electrical grid and infrastructure, and increasingly, all you need is the ability to produce a very realistic fake video that could undermine our elections, that could throw our country into tremendous crisis internally and weaken us deeply,” Rubio said. 

Unfortunately, detecting deepfakes is becoming a lot more difficult now, which makes it an even bigger problem. Recent reports have shown that GANs generating deepfakes are getting better and better. Thus, it wouldn't be much of a surprise to learn that we would have to rely on digital forensics to detect them.

Snapchat Uses Deepfake Technology

It’s not hard to label deepfakes as dangerous tools that can be used to manipulate people. However, some have been taking advantage of this technology. For instance, Snapchat recently introduced a new feature called Snapchat Cameos. According to Business Insider, a fast-growing business site with deep financial, media, tech, and other industry verticals, the new feature uses a form of deepfake technology to map users’ faces onto video recordings or animations.

Snapchat Cameos was first spotted by Snapchat users in France after receiving a test version of the tool last month. This is Snapchat’s attempt to lure users back after the video-sharing app Tiktok rose to fame. Reports show that the platform has made over 150 short looping video clips with sound that users can choose from. They can show you dancing, flaunting your cash, falling asleep, and many more. Snapchat can also stretch and move a person’s selfie to create different facial reactions. 

"With Cameos, you become the star of short, looping videos that you can customize with your face. They’re great for striking up new conversations or making responses to your friends personal, dynamic and fun,” Snapchat said in a statement. 

According to TechCrunch, an American online publisher focusing on the tech industry the new feature is an alternative to Bitmoji for quickly conveying an emotion, reaction, or silly situation in Snapchat messages. For now, Snapchat Cameos is clearly using deepfake technology as a new frontier for the app. This is part of the platform’s efforts to develop new filters and add-ons to keep it interesting for teens and young adults. 

While deepfake technology can be dangerous in the long run, social media platforms like Snapchat will continue using it to make user experience more fun and enjoyable. 

Snapchat Cameos was first spotted by Snapchat users in France after receiving a test version of the tool last month. This is Snapchat’s attempt to lure users back after the video-sharing app Tiktok rose to fame / Photo by: lightfieldstudios via 123RF