Fake news, lies or half-truths given credibility by appearing in a respected medium has been with us for centuries, going back at least as far as the Jewish blood libel. It has increased in danger in this century as it has taken in reputed journals. The Web allows it to spread world-wide, as it does with made-up quotes. I have recently seen debunked an extract from a play ascribed to Aneurin Bevan and cobbled-together passages from Winston Churchill made to suggest a view which was completely opposite to that of the great man.
Stalin had an image of Trotsky air-brushed out of a group photograph of the early Soviet leadership. That would have taken an hour or more of painstaking work in a photographic workshop. Now, thanks to computer technology, very little effort is required to produce convincing synthetic full-colour images and equally convincing sound-tracks, as Discover magazine reports:
Though audiences have become more attuned to the little things that give away a digitally manipulated image — suspiciously curved lines, missing shadows and odd halos — we’re approaching a day when editing technology may become too sophisticated for human eyes to detect. What’s more, it’s not just images either — audio and video editing software, some backed by artificial intelligence, are getting good enough to surreptitiously rewrite the mediums we rely on for accurate information.
The most crucial aspect of all of this is that it’s getting easier. Sure, Photoshop pros have been able to create convincing fakes for years, and special effects studios can bring lightsabers and transformers to life, but computer algorithms are beginning to shoulder more and more of the load, drastically reducing the skills necessary to pull such deceptions off.