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Hany Farid, professor at Berkeley School of Information, focusses on digital forensics, image analysis, and human perception. He is one of the subjects in the New Yorker article, “In the Age of A.I., Is Seeing Still Believing?” Hany and John Tariot have been having an ongoing conversation about the impact deepfakes will have on archives, and he and John continue the discussion here on some of the issues raised at the Association of Moving Image Archivists conference session “Everything in Your Archive is Now Fake.”

John Tariot: Thank you for allowing me to follow-up with you after our session. You were mentioned often. Archives are in a unique position in the deepfakes era as holders of the vast amounts of the material that could be used to create legal deepfakes and create new market opportunities, but will also need to be on-guard for the threats posed. We had a very entertaining talk with Gaurav Oberoi from the Allen Institute for AI who gave a run-down of the technology, and from Yvonne Ng from WITNESS, a human rights archive which has actually done quite a bit of work in the deepfakes realm. They are particularly concerned with the impact on human rights and the political and international scene.

During the session the video archivist at the New York Times expressed a concern, which was also shared privately with me by several attendees, which is what are the tools and techniques which are available now for people who need to provide some sort of authenticity trail? We explained that this really is an arms race in that as soon as we know what to look for the code changes to adapt itself to make it less detectable. It is notable that at the Wall Street Journal organization they are specifically training their employees to spot deepfakes doing reverse image searches and using tools like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere to step through videos to look for issues with image areas around the mouth and eyes.

So- I think I know the answer, but, what are the tools that are out there for someone like the video archivist at the New York Times to authenticate a video?

To answer your question there’s not a lot out there- visual inspection is sort of where we are right now- that’s the bad news. The good news is that even really good deepfakes have artifacts
— Hany Farid
We’re hoping to make this tool available, probably not to the general public at first, but to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the archivists…
— Hany Farid
Even after I tell the adversary what we’re doing it’s going to be very hard for them to manipulate it.
— Hany Farid

John Tariot: Another topic that came up was physical security of the archive. Security of the asset: the physical asset, the digital asset, and looking at physical access to the archive and digital access to the archive. Archives are in a slightly unique position in that they have material coming in to the archive which they may need to authenticate, and then they have material going out to third parties and they will need to make representations as to the authenticity of the material that’s being released.

What would be your take on infiltration of the archive?

It raises the bar, it makes it much, much less likely that someone has manipulated that content
— Hany Farid

John Tariot: And for material which we might call “legacy content”- material which has been previously digitized- would an approach be to “hash” all of that?

John Tariot: My colleague Linda Tadic from Digital Bedrock was curious as to what role encryption will play in the archive. I know that this is a similar kind of arms race, but would encryption be a good route to go?

Let’s say that you’re not worried about an internal bad actor but you’re worried about an external hacker- someone hacking into your system, replacing a bunch of content and walking away…
— Hany Farid

John Tariot: In wrapping things up for our session attendees, I did share one last quote from you and I’ll just get your current take on it today, which is that you still remain cautiously optimistic…

There is a lot of work to be done between now and the next two years
— Hany Farid