Back 13.11.2019

Feature: BBC News embedded throughout making of ‘Partly Political’ Broadcast deep fakes

I am please to be able to reveal that for the past 4 weeks, myself and my team have been working with BBC journalist Catrin Nye and the team from Victoria Derbyshire’s BBC morning news and current affairs programme to document the process of creating synthesised video content.

Using a range of creative processes and a technical method called Video Dialogue Replacement (VDR) which uses deep learning networks and additional software, we have created moving image works that ‘deep fake’ Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the UK alongside the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn.

For this project my team has been collaborating with London based think tank Future Advocacy to raise awareness to the fact that there are currently no laws or regulatory frameworks in place to limit the power of targeted misinformation campaigns online.

The resulting documentary feature was shown on BBC news at 10am on Tuesday 12th November and a shorter 3 minute feature has subsequently been viewed over a half a million times on Instagram alone.


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This fake social media video where Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn endorse each other for prime minister has been posted online in an attempt to show the potential of so-called 'deepfake' videos to undermine democracy. The video, by research organisation Future Advocacy, used artificial intelligence and an impressionist to make the footage appear as real as possible. #deepfake #electioncampaign #artificialintelligence #ukelection #socialmedia #bbcnews

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Over the last month we have been documenting all the processes that are involved in creating an synthesised video using VDR. This includes the creative script writing, research, recording of AV data of voice actor, post production, VFX and technical work.

My aim with this collaboration was to reveal the process involved in creating this type of ‘deep fake’ video content. There is so much hyperbole and fear concerning the potential impacts of deep fake technologies on our democratic processes and i hope this project addresses some of these concerns in a balanced way by calling for greater controls of the systemic issues we experience concerning misinformation campaigns on social media platforms. Deep fakes aren’t actively used in political campaigns at present but similar technologies are used daily to influence the publics understandings of real world and political events without any control or scrutiny on social media platforms and targeted advertising services on search engines including Google.

The conditions and lack of control of these powerful new forms of communication and influence are the real dangers to our democracy, as we have seen from parliament’s own committees findings concerning the way personal data and targeted misinformation campaigns were used to such powerful effect during the 2016 referendum in the UK and the election in the US.

We created this campaign to urge elected politicians to apply parliaments own findings and safeguard our future elections because we are in the beginning of a new UK election now, and little has changed to prevent online misinformation campaigns at scale that cause undue influence and coercion.

You can watch the ten minute feature that goes behind the scenes with our creative team on Victoria Derbyshire’s news and current affairs programme here.

Huge thanks to Catrin Nye, Victoria Derbyshire and the team for realising this timely feature that aims to demystify and advocate for the regulation of powerful forms of technology to protect the integrity of our democratic processes in the UK.

A full press release can be found here.

Read about Future Advoacy’s important work concerning the potential impacts of deepfakes on society here.