The world has seen how deepfakes can have a negative effect, from exploitation to gathering information on unknowing citizens. Conversely, some are harmless entertainment. But, just like any artform, deepfakes can also serve as a tool for social commentary. A recent video from the YouTube account Ctrl Shift Face would fall under the third category—and maybe a little bit of the second.
Ctrl Shift Face deepfaked the face and voice of President Donald Trump into a scene from the hit AMC show “Breaking Bad,” Futurism reports. The scene features Bob Odenkirk’s character Saul Goodman explaining to Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul, how to launder money. Ctrl Shift Face topped it off by pasting the face of Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner onto Paul’s.
Breaking America Great Again
The video carries the title “Better Call Trump.” It’s a reference to the “Breaking Bad” prequel spinoff “Better Call Saul,” which sees Bob Odenkirk resuming his role as Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman. The video even sees workers creating MAGA hats in the vein of the “Better Call Saul” opening theme.
The clip is fitting social commentary as Trump has received accusations of money laundering in the past. His monetary ties to Russia are under particularly intense scrutiny. The video even mentions “Russian money.”
To pull off the visual, Ctrl Shift Face utilized an open-source deepfake software called DeepFaceLab. The software uses machine learning to swap faces in videos. To make it sound like Trump’s voice, the video creators made use of the AI-powered social media account StableVoices. The extremely convincing “Better Call Trump” video shows how far deepfake technology has come as past videos using similar software have turned out with garbled if not comical results.
Mo Deepfakes, Mo Problems
However, the rapid evolution of the technology has many at the highest levels of government worried. As stated above, many deepfakes are innocuous entertainment. For example, inserting Keanu Reeves into a scene from “Sesame Street,” or, substituting Will Smith into “The Matrix” in place of Reeves.
However, Congress remains concerned that deepfakes could spread misinformation or create chaos. In 2018, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska introduced legislation targeting deepfake creators with criminal intent. Furthermore, the legislation featured language that places responsibility for managing such technology onto the shoulders of platforms like Facebook.
Tech giants including Facebook and Microsoft have responded by developing ways to detect deepfakes with help from users. Facebook’s Deepfake Challenge gives participants a dataset of real and altered videos for analysis. Users then try to come up with ways to spot the fakes.
While the “Better Call Trump” video might seemingly be in line with the president’s behavior, the fear is that altered videos could be used for wrongdoing. For example, imagine a similar video where Trump declares war on Iran. Although the illegitimacy of the video would soon come to light, it could cause momentary panic with disastrous consequences. Welcome to the era of deepfakes.