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Fake videos bring a new era of fake news

This was the word from Sylvia Papadopoulos, senior lecturer in the Department of Mercantile Law at the University of Pretoria, discussing online safety and security, at a Human Rights Day commemoration held by the Netherlands embassy in Johannesburg yesterday.

Papadopoulos pointed out that cyberbullying has taken a perilous turn that now presents itself in the latest trend of engineered fake videos.

“Fake videos are not only creating a new era of fake news, but they are also a relatively new method of cyberbullying.

“Deepfake, an artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology, is used to create a combination of existing and sourced videos, resulting in a movie or a video that depicts a person or people performing actions that never occurred in reality.

“These videos can be created, for example, to show a person performing sexual acts they never took part in, putting words into a person’s mouth, or showing them doing gestures that are out character.”

Deepfakes are not lip-syncing videos that are obvious spoofs; the technology uses facial mapping and AI to produce footage that appears so near genuine that it becomes difficult to differentiate them from the real video clip.

What the law says

While SA is applauded for having some of the most progressive policies regarding human rights and gender equality, we still have some way to go, as the current legal remedies are not without fault, asserted Papadopoulos.

“Litigation can become a very costly and lengthy affair in SA. By the time a resolution comes, the victim’s reputation may have suffered irreparable harm.”

With the intention of curbing some of these online crimes and regulating online content, the government has drafted two new Bills: the Cyber Crimes Bill, previously known as the Cyber Crimes and Cyber Security Bill, and the Films and Publications Amendment Bill, which are inching closer to finalisation.