“Imagine this for a second: one man with total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures. I owe it all to Spectre. Spectre showed me that whoever controls the data, controls the future.”

That’s Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg delivering a rather sinister speech about the sheer power over public information that he wields.

Only, it’s not.

Zuckerberg never said these words. This soundbite was never broadcast on CBS News. This whole video did not happen it was doctored.

The video is part of an art exhibition called Spectre – the same one Zuckerberg speaks about – created by artists Bill Posters and Daniel Howe in partnership with advertising company Canny. Displayed at the Sheffield Doc Fest in the UK, the exhibition includes deepfakes of Kim Kardashian, Freddie Mercury and Donald Trump. All the these videos send out warnings, purportedly from celebrities, about tech companies’ collection and use of private data for personal gain.


What is a deepfake?

A tool increasingly used to spread online misinformation, deepfakes use artificial intelligence to synthesise extremely realistic videos of people, usually celebrities. The technique essentially manipulates a person’s appearance and sound, frame by frame to make it appear like a person did or said something when they didn’t.


This particular video has been synthesised from a September 2017 speech Zuckerberg gave about Russian election interference on Facebook (below). Posted on June 8, the video was created using CannyAI’s video dialogue replacement technology.

Canny engineers arbitrarily clipped a 21-second segment out of the original seven-minute video, trained the algorithm on this clip as well as videos of the voice actor speaking, and then reconstructed the frames in Zuckerberg’s video to match the facial movements of the voice actor., reported Vice.

The original video.

The fake video posed a huge question for Facebook’s content moderation policies. The social media company has refused to take down the video saying that it did not violate site rules. “We will treat this content the same way we treat all misinformation on Instagram,” an Instagram spokesperson told The Guardian. “If third-party fact-checkers mark it as false, we will filter it from Instagram’s recommendation surfaces like Explore and hashtag pages.”