Deepfake Politics: Fake Accounts with Fake Faces on Facebook Are Pro-Trump
Political parties are using Facebook for a whole new level of influencer marketing: one where the influencer doesn’t even exist! How? Simple, in one word: deepfakes.
If fake accounts weren’t bad enough, they’re now heading to a whole new level: Fake Accounts With Fake Faces.
Apparently, Facebook has banned a pro-Trump US media outlet from its platforms after fining out that this media group used a network of hundreds of fake accounts, with computer generated images and faces, to push its content and increase interaction on pro-Trump posts.
This is a whole new level of influencer marketing: one where the influencer doesn’t even exist!
Facebook announced that in addition to the ban, it had to identify and disable more than 600 accounts, as well as several hundred pages that the company is said to have been running.
These accounts created fake identities out of thin air, used artificial intelligence to generate unique profile pictures, posed as Americans, and started a propaganda machine in favour of Trump.
The company behind the accounts is called TheBL - aka, The Beauty of Life. It’s well known among far right conservatives in the US and abroad, for sharing memes, conspiracy theories and pro-Trump content. Now here’s where it gets dark. The activity behind the company has been linked by Facebook to a larger entity, known as the Epoch Media Group, which is an American Chinese media network, with connections to the Falun Gong spiritual network. It has previously been banned from political advertising on Facebook, but prior to the ban, it was one of the biggest spenders on political advertising on Facebook.
The Epoch Group has, of course, denied these allegations, and called the ban unjustified. But that being said, these fake accounts had, together, under TheBL, spent nearly 10 million USD on advertising on Facebook alone. The accounts were set up in a way to have automatic posts spewed out at very high frequencies, designed to influence the voting public and to direct traffic to certain far right websites. Managed from Vietnam and the US, it used AI generated accounts but was careful enough to inject some authentic accounts into the mix as well, to avoid detection.
The Financial Times has reported that Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of Facebook’s cyber security policy, said, “the first time we are seeing [artificial intelligence-generated images] systemically used”.
This process of creating unique faces and bodies, and thus building a brand new person through CGI is called Deepfake, and these artificial people are referred to as Deepfakes themselves.
Asiaville has reported on this phenomenon quite extensively - but no one saw a propaganda movement on this scale coming.
In fact, the use of this chilling technology has gone so far, that it has even taken over the pornography industry. The majority of deepfake videos that exist are, in fact, non-consensual porn, also called DeepNudes.
A study conducted in 2019 found a total of 14,678 deepnude videos online. Out of these, over 7000 were collected from 5 major pornography websites. In addition to this, there were 500 videos collected from 14 YouTube channels as well. Of these 7500 videos, a huge number featured hundreds of female celebrities, none of whom had actually participated in porn. And yet, their faces were being superimposed on porn videos. One such video had even amassed over 134 million views.
Videos were, at one point of time, a source of irrefutable truth. Now, however, with the introduction of deepfakes, it looks like you simply cannot believe everything you see. And with politically motivated parties harnessing the power of deepfakes to drive change, the uncertainty has never been greater.