Getting Deep on Deepfakes’ Impact on Journalism

person holding white light bulb beside black bulb socket
Photo by Jhonis Martins on

It’s kind of hard to go deep on something you don’t really understand. Since deepfakes really are all about faking it.. I think I’ll be okay.

So here’s what I understand deepfakes to be— the use of artificial intelligence in videos or pictures to make it appear that someone is saying or doing something they are not. The whole concept of using artificial intelligence to manipulate a person’s image is scary, but not surprising. We live in a time where almost anything is possible, NEVER forget that!

Here’s where deepfakes get down right frightening. Right now social media is king and there are no limits. If someone saw it on Facebook, well it must be true *double eye roll*. During a time when media is still being referred to as “fake news” we should be concerned about what deepfakes could do to our industry. Allow me to break down my top two concerns.

First, as journalists we are the truth seekers… we should be the authority on what’s wrong and right. We are the whistleblowers, we carry the torch for the people. There’s a lot of weight that comes along with the job.. but what happens when you can no longer tell what’s real from what’s fake?

obama deep fakes

Last year there was a video created of former President Barack Obama using deepfakes. In it Obama gives a PSA about fake news, little did anyone know what was really going on. The video was made by director Jordan Peele’s entertainment company. The whole thing was Peele himself, but thanks to artificial intelligence we were none the wiser. It sounds cool, but then you think about the harm that could have caused. What if someone hacked Obama’s social media accounts while he was president and used deepfakes. Imagine the kind of world chaos that could have erupted and the news would have been at the center of it all. People turn to us to get information out because of our reach. We would have been responsible for sharing wrong and harmful information and not even known it…until it was too late.

My second concern is what deepfakes could do to the reputation of a journalist. There’s a lot of power and respect once your career reaches a certain level. So imagine if a trusted reporter or news anchor did something to piss someone off. Think about the things that could be done with deepfakes to ruin their reputation. Think about the kind of fear that could put in a truth seeker. Deepfakes could be used to silence journalists concerned about how something like artificial intelligence could ruin them. As I mentioned before, in the days of social media it doesn’t take much.

Now I’m not a complete artificial intelligence hater. I understand the use for making things cool in movies and being creative. I just think… just maybe we should do better about not giving it all away. It shouldn’t be so easy to ruin a person’s life or career with a cell phone app.


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