The battle over the notoriously dreaded concept of “fake news” has a new, strange ally, though: the US Department of Defense.
It only takes one video, one image, one viral “news” story to turn the tide of public opinion, so it comes as no surprise that months of bombardment with countless viral images–often shared by well-intentioned but ignorant social media users–can also turn the tide of an election. Case in point: an AI-generated video of former US President Barack Obama using profanity to emphasize a contradictory viewpoint began circulating in the past few days, one that was openly admitted to being computer simulated. That admission hasn’t stopped his critics and opponents from pouncing, with many sharing the completely fabricated video to revive a long-simmering hatred for him and his policies.
The unit of the DoD is more precisely known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA for short. First created during the height of the Space Race to tackle the nationwide embarrassment over trailing behind Russias’ Sputnik launch, DARPA began investing in and testing new innovations–even those that came from outside its walls, like a number of Apple concepts–to essentially beat others to the technology.
Now, DARPA is at work on getting the wildfire of fake news under control. One of the capabilities has been better detection software, basically letting interested parties take a closer, beneath the surface look at an image or video. Some of the tools can detect heat mapping to determine which items in an image were added after the fact, while other tools can detect even the slightest variations in light levels, shadowing, and more.
That means you won’t have to rely on a tinfoil hat to convince your brother-in-law that the shadows in that UFO video aren’t lining up. Instead, DARPA technology can determine whether or not it’s the real deal or a good copy job.
Stop the spread
The problem, though, isn’t just in detecting the fake from the real, but rather how to put an end to it once it’s out there. Images of Parkland shooting survivors tearing up the Constitution or former Presidents dropping the f-bomb are too good for some people with an agenda to pass up, regardless of the truth behind them. After all, telling your relatives about a Photoshopped image is one thing, but getting them to believe it and stop spreading it is something else altogether.