Stealing Your Online Face – Online Truth Suffers Another Blow


FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

What is “real” and what is “fake” in terms of online content we review? This has become a major, if not dominant, concern with respect to the reliability of what we see on the internet. Are suggested “facts” really true? Do we really know the actual source of material posted on the internet?

And now our worry in this area should be heightened by the development of face-swapping videos. For example, FakeApp can be utilized to create altered videos by inserting faces of people into these videos, as reported in detail by Business Insider. This face-swapping technique has been used by many people just for fun. As an example, Nicholas Cage’s image was inserted to have him becoming Lois Lane in a Superman movie (perhaps Nicholas Cage was not amused).

But the fun stops when the faces of celebrities have been inserted into certain pornographic videos. This happened to Taylor Swift and Gal Godot.

The problem could become even more problematical. What happens, for example, if this type of technology is used such that words are inserted to come out of the face of an important elected official? Imagine a scenario in which a world leader’s image and voice are altered to declare war on another country? Will the seemingly threatened country take its time to find out if the declaration of war is real or fake, or will it muscle up and preemptively strike to protect its interests?

Can technology companies protect the world from the increasing potential for unreliable content, visuals, and sounds on the internet? Is that their job? So far, at least in the United States, they have been relatively unregulated when it comes to the content posted by others. Time will tell whether there will be greater regulation. But for there to be increased regulation, it must be intelligent regulation — meaning that Congress truly needs to understand how the internet works, which has not been obvious so far.

Meanwhile, the public should try to stick to very reliable online news sources as they try to understand true facts. And those news outlets need to be extremely careful in vetting what they ultimately report on in this new era in which so much can be doctored relatively seamlessly.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at [email protected] with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.

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