Lying with video.
May 15, 2002 4:33 AM   Subscribe

Lying with video. Researchers at MIT have created videos of people uttering sentences they never said that consistently fool viewers and are accepted by them as real. Once upon a time, it was a lot harder to be false with film, but whether the medium will be in any way trustworthy going forward seems doubtful. What will it mean when you can't even believe your own eyes?
posted by zoopraxiscope (17 comments total)
Generally, you can still believe your own eyes, which still see the actual pixels that are on your own television. As usual, you just can't believe any random television signal. You must instead find news sources that you might believe could, for instance, fabricate a tape of George Bush communing with a goat, but would not (and would not have to) fabricate such a thing. And you have to trust, as usual, that source X will in turn develop trusted sources Y and Z.

Also, though this technique fools casual viewers, experts can still detect fake video when they scan it with the proper equipment, so there is still no way to make an undetectable video forgery.
posted by pracowity at 5:00 AM on May 15, 2002

The MIT researchers are lagging behind expert professional video editors who use AVID and other network-level systems. They have been able to mock up such shots for at least the past five years.

Not to mention the movie industry, which has used the same technology just as long to re-dialog scenes that had already been filmed.
posted by mischief at 5:42 AM on May 15, 2002

pracowity - not yet there isn't. And maybe there never will be. But the general public doesnt care about authenticity of video. They'll believe whatever they see on TV, and the story about it having been faked will miss a big percentage of those who saw the original story.

From the article - ''We will probably have to revert to a method common in the Middle Ages, which is eyewitness testimony,'' said the University of Pennsylvania's Jamieson. ''And there is probably something healthy in that.''

But what about the demonstrated problems with eyewitness testimony? How do we deal with that? Can we believe anything we didnt see with our own eyes?
posted by Irontom at 5:50 AM on May 15, 2002

Can we believe anything we didnt see with our own eyes?
no. and for some of us '60's refugees, not even that.
posted by quonsar at 6:03 AM on May 15, 2002

I wonder if this technology existed in 1992? Maybe in Simi Valley.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:14 AM on May 15, 2002

Mischief (From the article)

For years, animators have used computer technology to put words in people's mouths, as they do with the talking baby in CBS's ''Baby Bob'' - creating effects believable enough for entertainment, but still noticeably computer-generated. The MIT technology is the first that is ''video-realistic,'' the researchers say, meaning volunteers in a laboratory test could not distinguish between real and synthesized clips. And while current computer-animation techniques require an artist to smooth out trouble spots by hand, the MIT method is almost entirely automated.

IOW, MIT is not lagging behind. And you didn't read the article before posting.
posted by magullo at 6:33 AM on May 15, 2002

Nothing is real. That's the only safe assumption.
posted by UnReality at 6:41 AM on May 15, 2002

> ''We will probably have to revert to a method common
> in the Middle Ages, which is eyewitness testimony,'' ...

But that's no reversion. You take the reporter's word for it (accept the reporter's eyewitness testimony) now, especially if you're primarily a reader, but you also trust broadcast reporters to be telling the truth and don't demand video to prove that the thing happened. I get nearly 100 percent of my news from newspapers (printed and online) -- I see no video, rarely even a still photo, authentic or forged. That's the sort of trust in certain sources that most of us have. We develop a web of trustworthy sources.

> But the general public doesnt care about authenticity of
> video. They'll believe whatever they see on TV, ...

Or read in the papers. It's nothing new. The butcher trusted the baker, who heard it from a visiting peddler, who heard it from a town crier in the next town, etc.

There is, of course, more and more chance that video trickery will be used to fool the public about real issues, but it's not an entirely new problem, we have dealt with it well enough up now, and we will continue to deal with it, primarily by developing and maintaining trust for certain reliable sources. A guy will go on Fox News with video of Bill Clinton aiming a gun at a little Cuban boy while he fondles himself, and the gullible will believe it no matter what, but smart people will develop as technology develops, will be aware of the ability to fake video, and will demand better evidence from a better source.
posted by pracowity at 6:48 AM on May 15, 2002

Nothing is real.

And nothing to get hung about.
posted by yhbc at 6:48 AM on May 15, 2002

Dammit, you beat me to that, yhbc!
posted by evanizer at 7:08 AM on May 15, 2002

The Globe put video samples up with the article now. Sure, it looks pretty real with QuickTime, although if you watch the lips and teeth there are a few tells, but I'd like to see a full-screen version.
posted by FreezBoy at 7:58 AM on May 15, 2002

I read an article a year ago that said it is now possible to do this on the fly; that is, during a live broadcast.
posted by mikegre at 8:38 AM on May 15, 2002

Not lovely Quicktime; shitty, shitty, RealVideo.
posted by nicwolff at 9:25 AM on May 15, 2002

keywords: illusion, falsify, falsification, phoney, lies, misleading information, propaganda, big brother, censorship, deception, lacking credibility, dubious veracity, questioned the veracity, questioned the credibility, mistrust, inamissible evidence, i misspoke, the president misspoke, errata, retractions, my vidiot must have said that, confessions of osama bin laden's double, doppelganger, identity theft, the transformation of identity politics
posted by sheauga at 10:28 AM on May 15, 2002

The definitive essay on the topic, now 4 years old: Photography in the Age of Falsification. One of the points made is that photography didn't start out with a reputation for, as it were, reliable testimony; that's cultural.
posted by dhartung at 11:48 AM on May 15, 2002

Is it just me, or is it very obvious which are done by the software? I took the test and it was immediately obvious that the synthetic ones didn't look right. A technological achievement, but certainly not going to fool anyone paying attention.
posted by Kevs at 5:11 PM on May 15, 2002

my vidiot must have said that

posted by Vidiot at 3:06 PM on May 19, 2002

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