Bytedance adds deepfake technology to Chinese TikTok

Anne Freier | January 8, 2020

App Business

Bytedance, the company behind hit app TikTok, has developed technology that allows users to add their own faces to other’s videos.

According to information obtained by TechCrunch, the Face Swap function hasn’t been released just yet but it’s part of the ‘deepfake’ movement – which is media that inserts other people into an image for a realistic end result.

The technology scans a face from multiple angles and making the user perform a series of action to ensure they’re real humans; it then allows them to choose from select videos to add their faces to. Bytedance says that it has rightful access to these videos.

Users can then share their videos. To ensure that others know the videos are fake, they will carry a label marking them as such.

TechCrunch learned about the addition from in-app market research firm Watchful.ai which uncovered the code in TikTok’s latest Android app version.

However, TikTok denied that the feature would be added to the app despite TechCrunch discovering relevant code in the app. Instead, it is earmarked for Douyin – the Chinese version of TikTok.

There are several problems with deepfake media of course, including the use of such technology to manipulate people’s opinions on a mass scale. According to research by Deeptrace, an Amsterdam-based cyber security firm, the use of deepfake tech is dramatically rising. This could have serious consequences for the political landscape and individual companies facing more advanced, life-like fraudulent schemes.

“The reality-warping, truly indistinguishable deep fakes aren’t here on a large scale yet, but they are coming and at the moment we are not prepared for them,” says Henry Ajder, a lead author of the report.

Bytedance is taking measures to ensure that users can see when a video is fake, of course, but the feature could also cause confusion among users and lead to even greater attempts to distorts one’s own personality and physique online. The latter is an issue that is already widely discussed among parents of teenagers who use social media to compare themselves causing self-doubt.

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