Ryvka Barnard is a Senior Campaigns Officer for the British charity War on Want.
She has a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies from New York University.
In school, she specialized in the politics of tourism in the occupied West Bank.
Ryvka campaigns against human rights abuses associated with the military and security industry…
With a special focus on the UK-Israel arms trade.
But recently, Ryvka and her husband Masri were accused of being terrorist sympathizers.
An article in the U.S. Jewish newspaper The Algemeiner falsely accused the couple.
The article was written by a man named Oliver Taylor.
Taylor is a student at England’s University of Birmingham.
He looks like your average college student…
A twenty-something with brown eyes and light stubble.
Social media profiles describe Taylor as a coffee lover and political junkie.
He writes freelance editorials and blog posts.
And his writings have been published in the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel.
The problem is Oliver Taylor is not a real person.
He doesn’t exist.
And Taylor’s university has no record of him.
His only online accounts were social media that were active for a few days.
Newspapers that published Taylor’s work couldn’t confirm his identity.
Calls to the U.K. phone number Taylor supplied to editors drew an automated error message.
He didn’t respond to messages left at the e-mail address he used for correspondence.
Experts in imagery used forensic analysis programs to determine that Taylor’s profile photo is a forgery…
Also known as a Deepfake.
Deepfakes are the newest form of photoshopping.
They use artificial intelligence called deep learning to make images of fake events – hence the name.
As of today, no one knows who made up Oliver Taylor.
Yet his writings were filled with lies and accusations against an innocent couple.
The scary thing is, deepfakes like Taylor are dangerous because they create an untraceable identity.
In other words, investigators looking for the origin of a deepfake are looking for a needle in a haystack. Except the needle doesn’t exist.
For example, Oliver Taylor appears to have had no online presence until he started writing newspaper articles.
Editors at the Jerusalem Post and The Algemeiner claim they published his articles after he pitched them stories through email.
After the news outlets found out he wasn’t real they deleted his work.
Yet, Taylor emailed both papers protesting the removal.
So, while Taylor may not be a real person, he is still operating behind the Deepfake, and looking for his next victim.
A common form of deepfake is videos or photos of famous people with changes to the images or words coming out of their mouth.
And celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg, and even U.S. Presidents have been victims of deepfakes.
To help you from being duped, here are some ways to help you spot a deepfake.
Don’t blink: Technology researchers have discovered deepfake faces don’t blink normally.
Most pictures and videos show people with their eyes open.
And computer algorithms have difficulty learning how to make fake images blink.
Bad lighting: The technology used to make a deepfake is still new.
It can be pretty obvious when a video has been doctored.
And if you look closely you’ll often spot discoloration or incorrect lighting on faces.
The edges of the face are often blurry and misaligned.
In a video, the lip-syncing can be off too.
If you are watching a video zoom in on the lips to see if it matches the audio.
Real person or bot: Have you ever called your local utility company and wondered if you are talking to a real person or a robot?
Chances are you can tell the difference between a robot and a human-based on the way they speak.
Most people speak in a fragmented way.
Humans need to collect their thoughts.
And tend to take longer than a split second to speak or to decide what they want to say.
Bots are programmed for what they are going to say.
You can hear the difference in a natural speaking voice compared to a preprogrammed sentence.
Many methods to detect deepfakes have weaknesses.
But, tech firms are working on detection systems to flag fakes whenever they appear.
So, next time you see a video or picture online that you think is unbelievable…
Take a closer look, because you may be witnessing a deepfake.