A deepfake Queen Elizabeth II danced on her desktop for TikTok this Christmas in perhaps the most entertaining Queen’s Christmas Message ever. Britain’s Channel 4 created the message and then asked viewers to consider ‘whether what we see and hear is always what it seems’.
Scroll down for the vids.
With deepfake porn now a thing and increasing apprehension about the possibility of fake news generated by the technology, Channel 4 promoted the video as a warning of things to come.
The channel said the video offered ‘a stark warning about the advanced technology that is enabling the proliferation of misinformation and fake news in a digital age’.
Channel 4 began offering alternative Christmas messages in 1993. Generally, previous messages featured controversial figures of the time. However, this year the channel chose to utilise technology to create the deepfake Queen Elizabeth II.
The end result almost worked visually. There was slight artifacting around the jawline, as frequently occurs with virtual greenscreen programs. The character’s eyes also seemed ‘dead’, finally coming alive when the Queen rose from her seat to dance.
However, the voice let the production down.
How deepfake works
Deepfakers create virtual doppelgängers via generative adversarial networks. A machine learning model is fed footage and then creates a video forgery. Programmers task another machine learning model with detecting the forgery. Success is measured by a forgery good enough to convince the second model.
The more data available to inform the forgery, the better the end result. That explains why early deepfake attempts focussed on politicians and movie stars. The forgers had ready access to substantial data.
Various porn sites now advertise deepfake movies. Most offer poor renderings, or in some cases, merely unconvincing lookalikes. The rendering of Angelina Jolie in one clip was visually convincing though ‘Angelina’ appeared notably unexcited — even bored — while performing acts which usually generate considerable excitement.
A deepfake Tom Holland looked more like a vaguely Tom Hollandish lifelike inflatable doll on the point of deflating. Meanwhile, videos of deepfake Prince Harry and another of PewDiePie featured ‘lookalikes’ whose greatest achievements were looking nothing like the Duke of Sussex or the Swedish YouTuber. Whatever happened to ethics in porn?