Deepfake website fakes Moon landing disaster

Don't always judge the book by it's cover, especially these days

We are becoming all too aware of how easy it is to be tricked by bad actors when it comes to fake stories in the news, enemy states poking around in election results, and even large Western news corporations manipulating imagery to tell a different story on their own websites.

Enter the world of the Deepfake. This technique uses AI to make it seem as though one person (generally a politician or actor) is behaving in a way they didn’t, or saying things they actually didn’t say.

Computer programs manipulate the video footage and voice to make it look and sound as though they are actually doing something different from what happened. It has been particularly popular in deep-faking various actresses into adult movie scenes to make it look as though they were actually taking part.

It has long been feared though that this technology could grow to be more dangerous than the fantasies of males with too much time on their hands.

What if you could deep-fake a political leader declaring war on another country? Or announce the death of somebody that was very much alive?

What if you could actually change history and manipulator and present an event we all know about in an entirely different way?

Enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Advanced Virtuality, and a project called In Event of Moon Disaster. Using advanced AI and Deepfake technology they have created a website that paints a very different timeline to the Moon landings, one which ended in disaster.

You may or may not know that such was the risk factor in Armstrong and Aldrin’s mission, two speeches were written for President Richard Nixon – one celebrating the success, the other to be used in case of disaster. The words are real but were never read on air by Nixon because the mission was a success.

Have a look at the website above however to see how Nixon has been manipulated to speak the words of the unused speech. His voice has been recreated by computer to speak them and well, yes, it’s a pretty terrifying thought how tech such as this could be abused in plenty of situations. The actual occasion of the speech he did give was one on the topic of Vietnam.

The project is designed to highlight the dangers of deepfakes by taking this treasured event of American history and completely re-telling it in a negative way.

Directors Francesca Panetta and Halsey Burgund said: Even now, the ease of creating a convincing deepfake is a worrisome development in an already troubled media landscape. By making one ourselves, we wanted to show viewers how advanced this technology has become, as well as help them guard against the more sophisticated deepfakes that will no doubt circulate in the near future. If someone who experiences our video later recalls the believability of our piece and, as a result, turns a more critical eye on videos they see pop up in their Facebook feed, we will have been successful.

Bear in mind that the tech is only going to get “better” as time passes and will be pretty much indistinguishable soon enough. Food for thought eh?

The first part of the video gives some background and the deepfake AI stuff begins around three and a half minutes in. See how easy you find it to spot the deepfake.

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Managing Editor
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Been around consoles and computers since his parents bought him a Mattel Intellivision. Spent over a decade as editor of popular print-based video games and computer magazines, including a market-leading PlayStation title. Has written tech content for GamePro, Official Australian Playstation Magazine, PlayStation Pro, Amiga Action, Mega Action, ST Action, GQ, Loaded, and the Daily Mirror. Twitter: @iampaulmcnally

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