What appears to be Australia’s first ever deepfake political advertisement was rolled out during last week’s Queensland election. Welcome to The Bad Place.
Right wing advocacy group Advance Australia has posted a video using footage of what appears to be Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk giving a press conference.
But the video isn’t real. It uses deepfake technology — a method that fakes footage by using AI to create synthetic footage — to create a video of Palaszczuk saying something she didn’t actually say.
And it’s an extremely cursed looking video. While the criticising her own government and saying she’ll understand if voters “want to get rid of us”, the oddly lifeless and strangely lit computer generated face of ‘Palaszczuk’ makes the correct mouth shapes for the words she’s saying. But no one would be fooled that it is real.
Advance Australia also makes it clear that the footage isn’t real. The post is captioned with a spoonerized version of the premier’s name: “Watch this fake press conference from Pannastacia Alaszczuk”
The video itself has a strap saying “not the LABOR PREMIER OF QLD”, and it concludes with a graphic saying “NOT ACTUALLY THE PREMIER OF QLD”.
And yet, the partisan lobbying group paid somewhere between $7,000-$8,000 to promote the video into the feeds of Queenslanders, according to Facebook’s Ad Library. And the advertisements were seen somewhere between 900,000-1 million times.
As it stands, it is unclear whether this video falls afoul of Facebook’s Manipulated Media policy which prohibits video that has been “edited or synthesized, beyond adjustments for clarity or quality, in ways that are not apparent to an average person, and would likely mislead an average person to believe that a subject of the video said words that they did not say”.
The technology has been clearly used to make it seem as if the Premier said those words, but the accompanying caption and graphics makes it clear that it is not.
Regardless, this crude use of deepfake technology is a taste of what could be to come. At the moment most deepfake videos are obvious to the naked eye and they’re mostly used for fun in Australia.
But that may change in the future — and the idea that fake videos of politicians could be a future political weapon is, well, pretty grim.
Facebook has been contacted for comment.