Merry Christmas to all, on this, the third day of Twelvetide. The head of the Church of England put out her annual Christmas message, speaking of hope and recounting tales of heroic nurse Florence Nightingale as inspiration in the battle against the Wuhan virus. But it was her second message that counted as the true harbinger of the coming era.
But Queen Elizabeth did not actually give a second message. British Channel Four created a deepfake Queen, talking about the importance of family (as the camera focuses on photos of Harry and Megan – famously splitting from the Royal Family to reside in North America – and Prince Andrew – who has scandalized the Royals by his friendship to the pedophilic vampire Jeffrey Epstein).
Deepfakes are synthetic digital videos or photographs in which one person in the image is substituted for another and, with the help of artificial intelligence, so creates an incredibly lifelike, but fake, representation.
Channel Four’s deepfake Queen’s real message focused on trust, and suggested the audience should not always trust what it sees on our screens – and then proceeded to show a supposed TikTok video of the Queen dancing to club music on the top of her desk.
The ridiculousness of what the video depicted served to highlight Channel Four’s message about the unreliability of media these days, where the ability to create lifelike images has never been greater. Seeing is no longer believing.
After November’s election, “South Park’s” Trey Parker and Matt Stone created a deepfake President Trump in a gauche Christmas sweater bemoaning fake elections for their web series “Sassy Justice.” Again, like the Queen’s, this deepfake’s utter absurdity made its phoniness transparent. But as this technology grows in popularity and in usage, that of course will not always be the case. In fact, the reader can be sure that nefarious figures will use the tech for nefarious means.
Case in point: the Chinese Communist regime recently promoted a fake image of an Australian soldier holding a bloody knife at an Afghan baby‘s throat through Twitter, and using a network of fake Twitter accounts to spread and promote the image. Tensions between China and Australia have deteriorated in the wake of the Wuhan pandemic, Australia forbidding Chinese tech giant Huawei from installing 5G wireless technology, and Australian criticism of China’s violations of its 1997 Hong Kong accord with the United Kingdom. The fake image was tweeted out by Chinese senior foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao.
With the credibility of government officials crumbling to ever greater ruins with each passing day, deepfakes give the mindful observer just one more reason to disbelieve everything he hears and sees. It may not be the message of hope the Queen wishes to impart, but then, who’s to say the Queen’s first Christmas message was any truer than the second? Can’t trust anything these days.
[Note: updated to include title and correct a typo on 12/27/2020.]