A.I. Video Depicting Barack Obama Shows Dangers of Fake News - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

There’s a video making its rounds online in which former President Barack Obama is cosigning the efforts of Erik Killmonger in Black Panther, offering a controversial opinion about HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and calling President Donald Trump a “total and complete dips—.”

But, the video is fake.

The former POTUS never said those words, nor was he actually being interviewed.

According to reports, Obama’s likeness was the genius of artificial intelligence and Oscar-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele’s production company, which used Adobe After Effects and the A.I. face-swapping tool FakeApp to create the footage. The video was done in conjunction with BuzzFeed.

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti released the video to highlight how technology can be used to create fake news, and it does just that, with Obama’s likeness stating, “This is a dangerous time. Moving forward, we need to be more vigilant with what we trust from the Internet. It’s a time where we need to rely on trusted news sources.” BuzzFeed illustrates, via a split screen, Peele voicing the same words, providing the framework for the A.I.-produced Obama’s rhetoric.

The video serves as a PSA on how A.I. can be used to promote misinformation, slander, fraud, and misrepresentation, and it urges, through its example, consumers to be discerning about the sources from which they are getting information and the factual nature of information shared online. The fake Obama ends the video saying, “Stay woke, b*****.”

The phenomenon of fake news is not new, from the Yellow Journalism days of American history to President Donald Trump having made the concept infamous since taking office, and it’s an almost weekly occurrence when it comes to the deaths of celebrities. It can become very dangerous when related to politics, crime, and activism, and one small seed of incorrect or untrue news can hit the Web, go viral in minutes, and ruin careers, skew elections, lead to deaths, or push stocks to plunge.

Fraudsters create bogus news pages with articles that seem real and that are often shared on social media, but this example by BuzzFeed takes things a step further, providing video evidence of the power of visual media tools in creating and spreading fake news. In today’s digital media world, video is king. (The video-sharing site YouTube, according to the Pew Research Center, is now used by nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults, and reports indicate that by 2019, Web video will account for 80% of all consumer Web traffic.)

The BuzzFeed PSA illustrates the volatile combo of fake news and technology, and how easy it is to create a potentially explosive disaster if shared online. The Obama video was posted on BuzzFeed’s YouTube channel just last week and already has more than 3.7 million views.

Watch the video below.

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Janell Hazelwood

Janell Hazelwood is a digital media journalist, speaker, editor, and consultant who has worked for media powerhouses including The New York Times, Black Enterprise, and Conde Nast. The Hampton University graduate's work and insights have appeared on The Huffington Post, E!Online, Ebony.com, CBS News and Brazen Careerist. She's fluent in women's issues, career advancement, guilty (TV) pleasures and Trini patois.


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