Deep Fake Audio

Deepfake Audio: Beware of What You Hear!

Time and again we see testaments of the fact that the advancement of technology is a necessary evil, and the greater proficiency we attain with machines, the more we also become susceptible to its cons. The deepfake audio technology is one living demonstration of the same. We knew about doctored videos that can face swap to make it appear like a certain individual is saying something which originally was never said by that person. If that weren’t confusing enough, deepfake audios take the detailing and complexity of such fakes to a whole new baffling level. 

Insights Into The Deepfake Audio Technology

Much like its video counterpart, deepfake audios are forms of synthetic media composed of modified and altered voices that imitate real humans, which at the best, are almost indistinguishable from the original speaker’s voice. 

This means, that a listener can easily mistake a stranger using deepfake audio to be someone very familiar and consequently, end up being the victim of fraud. This also means that in the viral social media forward wherein you hear your president announcing free vaccines for all may not really be his words at all.

How Have The Applications Of Deepfake Audio Advanced?

Traditionally, deepfake audio technology proved to be a breakthrough in various commercial sectors including cinema, advertisement, customer support, and even gaming, where characters, animations, or simply virtual assistants are needed to talk in a voice that sounds human and connects with humans, without requiring the physical presence of a speaker. This was a 180 degrees shift from the regularly recorded speeches from real humans that had no real-time applications and were, therefore, embraced with unprecedented fervor. 

Although this looks like a high-end technology rooted in the advanced application of Artificial Intelligence algorithm, in reality, one can find it and use it in the form of free apps. Over the years as the deepfake technology has advanced, its scope of accessibility has expanded incredulously. From being available to the public for recreational purposes like in Snap Chat bunny filters that make your voice sound funny to professional tools like Lyrebird AI or Voice App that make voice phishing too easy and detailed for amateurs.

The Darker Side Of Deepfake Audio: Past, Present, and Future Possibilities

Tables turned when misuses of this breakthrough were discovered and experts realized that detecting the difference between what’s fake audio and a real voice wasn’t as easy as applying the deepfake. The complexity increased furthermore as a couple of deepfake audios and videos, with the help of 3D face mesh reconstruction minutely started matching lip movements and facial gestures to the doctored face and audio. 

The menace is fairly recent considering that the first-ever deepfake voice scam was reported in 2019. This is a problem because such unethical content creators have gotten that many years of an edge over a technology that they are gaining proficiency with, by the day.

To understand how deepfake audio technology poses threat to the credibility of any form of media in today’s ‘viral culture’, especially at a time as crucial as the run-up to the American presidential elections, let’s have a look at some of the most important questions in this matter. 

How Has Deepfake Voice Scams Affected People?

Deepfake audio frauds began emerging in the form of voice phishing and phone call scams and unfortunately have claimed some powerful people with enormous assets at stake. One of the most widely known examples is that of a UK based energy firm that was called with an intention to siphon off around $2,40,000 by mimicking the voice of the Chief of the parent company. While this being a high-profiled case received limelight, estimates suggest that hundreds of such reports of voice scams through phone are reported. 

To What Extent Are Deepfake Audios Presently Being Misused And Can Be Used In Future?

Probably the most terrifying aspect of the deepfake audios of today is the declining ‘robotic element’ that used to be earlier relatively easily detectable. The extent of misuse primarily magnifies because of the scope of social media. If a politician or anyone influential for that matter is heard saying something controversial, it can wreak havoc to the extent of national unrest. 

As the word spreads, the potential for phone scammers to commit the ‘perfect crime’ will increase manifolds. Its use to hack into voice encoded systems is also being explored, which can be another disaster. Voice hacking of virtual assistants can also be predicted.

What Are The Current Legal Provisions For Audio Manipulators Using Deepfake?

Unlike deepfake videos, such audios cannot be misused in serious crimes such as tampered pornography, and therefore, defamation goes out of the picture. Moreover, when content creators use a specific voice, it is difficult to claim copyright because according to them it’s just the particular vocal style and frequency that sounds like that person. And besides these, there’s no provision that claims deepfake audio creation unlawful.

This is why you will find Youtube channels like Voice Synthesis earning a decent revenue off of their deepfake audio content on the platform. Such channels stop at no personality and one can easily find anyone from Donald Trump to the late Mr. John F. Kennedy lending or adopting a voice that belongs to someone else in such videos. 

The recent incident where JayZ’s agency filed a copyright claim for deepfake voice synthesis involved the same Youtube channel discussed above using his voice in snippets from popular plays. 

Deepfake Detection: What Can Be The Immediate Course Of Action?

Recent research claims that technology has advanced to the point that one might find it difficult to distinguish one’s own cloned voice. Being vigilant and suspicious of anything that sounds out of enough context or just intuitionally off is said to be the one way to prevent falling prey to scams for now. Confirmation and verification of the person’s authenticity should be a part of every unusual call.

As far as larger mediums with greater things at stake like social media and press are concerned, more accurate detectors are being developed with utmost urgency to contain any false propaganda and fake news in times as tumultuous as these. The most efficient technology to detect and verify these AI-powered deepfake audios, according to findings, is AI itself.

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