Deepfake (a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake”) refers to a technique using deep learning (an artificial intelligence


Deepfake (a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake”) refers to a technique using deep learning (an artificial intelligence (“AI”) technique) for image synthesis to create falsified videos.  As the technique is becoming more and more sophisticated, one can easily replace a person in an existing video with someone else’s likeness, even with an animal’s face, or manipulate a person’s mouth shapes, all you need is a smart phone and a mobile application.  Those fabricated images and videos appear to be real.

This short video, Maiyahe (original 2003 “Dragostea Din Tei” O-Zone, Romanian) created by a mobile app called Avatarify, was fashionable for a while in Mainland.  (Image source: The Internet)

Deepfake extended its application to sounds.  Nowadays with AI technology, your voice can be mimicked to create different conversations by capturing your voice of 5 seconds.  With deepfake images and sounds, one can fabricate videos that never exist. 

Risks that deepfakes pose

With the wide application of deepfake technology, seeing is not believing.  Images and videos are not necessarily telling truth.  According to a study published by University College London in 2008, deepfakes ranked as most serious AI crime threat.  The following are some phenomena that AI could be misused:

Identity theft

Fraudsters used AI to impersonate an energy firm CEO’s voice and directed his executive to transfer over 2 million Hong Kong dollars to a third person bank account.


Criminals fabricated videos then extorted and blackmailed the victims to refrain from putting the video into circulation.

Publishing non-consensual pornography

Generally, deepfake porn transplanted the heads of female celebrities onto the bodies of pornography actors. Or in some cases, just to publicly humiliate and damage the reputation of the subjects, some transplanted the heads of the subjects onto the bodies of pornography actors without their consent.  These cases are regarded as “revenge porn”.

Infringement of intellectual property rights and individual privacy

Currently, Hong Kong did not have specific legislation on  personality right.  However, images or videos tampering without consent of the owner of the copyright may contravene the Copyright Ordinance.  On the other hand, collecting images of a person is for the purpose of identifying the identity of that person.  Any person who collects and uses the personal data of another person is subject to the provisions of the Privacy Ordinance.

Spreading fake news

The icons of politicians often become targets of “parody” by cyber citizens.  As general readers may not have the capabilities to verify the authenticity of the information, deepfake could be a powerful tool for those politicians who might want to create disinformation and build up public opinions.

Since the technical threshold of deepfake application has been lowered, while the products of deepfake have become more similar to the genuine one, some technology companies have started developing deepfake detection, using AI to fight against AI.  Some countries are considering legislative and regulatory approaches to deal with the ethical and legal concerns brought by deepfake.

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