Two years ago, a video of former president Barack Obama using profane language when referencing President Donald Trump was uploaded to YouTube.
As the shock of his comments sunk in, the video revealed the speaker was in fact Oscar-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele. The Obama deepfake, a sort of Manhattan Project for fake news, was intended to demonstrate just how easy it is to disseminate convincing disinformation by manipulating video and audio — and how much easier it would become as technology advances.
The video, which was produced in partnership with BuzzFeed as a public service announcement, distilled a growing number of dire predictions and warnings that technological advances would soon fracture our shared sense of reality beyond repair. Writing in the Atlantic, journalist Franklin Foer said manipulated video would someday “destroy faith in our strongest remaining tether to the idea of common reality.”