Last week Google released several thousand deepfake videos to help researchers build tools that use artificial intelligence to spot altered videos that could spawn political misinformation, corporate sabotage, or cyberbullying.


Google’s videos could be used to create technology that offers hope of catching deepfakes in much the way spam filters catch email spam. In reality, though, technology will only be part of the solution. That’s because deepfakes will most likely improve faster than detection methods, and because human intelligence and expertise will be needed to identify deceptive videos for the foreseeable future.


Deepfakes have captured the imagination of politicians, the media, and the public. Video manipulation and deception have long been possible, but advances in machine learning have made it easy to automatically capture a person’s likeness and stitch it onto someone else. That’s made it relatively simple to create fake porn, surreal movie mashups, and demos that point to the potential for political sabotage.


There is growing concern that deepfakes could be used to sway voters in the 2020 presidential election. A report published this month by researchers at NYU identified deepfakes as one of eight factors that may contribute to disinformation during next year’s race. A recent survey of legislation found that federal and state lawmakers are mulling around a dozen bills to tackle deepfakes. Virginia has already made it illegal to share nonconsensual deepfake porn; Texas has outlawed deepfakes that interfere with elections.


Tech companies have promoted the idea that machine learning and AI will head off such trouble, starting with simpler forms of misinformation. In his testimony to Congress last October, Mark Zuckerberg promised that AI will help it identify fake news stories. This would involve using algorithms trained to distinguish between accurate and misleading text and images in posts.

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TerraPower aims to develop a sustainable and economic nuclear energy system while greatly reducing proliferation risks and creating new options for converting low-level waste into vast energy resources.

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Cassini data suggested that Saturn’s rings were only 10 to 100 million years old. A new study suggests that a "ring rain" onto Saturn makes the rings look younger than they really are, and that in fact Saturn’s rings date back billions of years.


Cassini data seemed to indicate rings lasting only 10 million to 100 million years. A new study suggests that dusty and organic material ejected from Saturn’s rings – a “ring rain” – could make the rings appear younger than they really are, and that in fact could mean that Saturn’s rings date back billions of years. As things stand now, we don’t know if Saturn’s rings are young or old; we only know that astronomers are continuing to learn about them.

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NASA engineers are studying the feasibility of a giant starshade that could be remotely positioned to block out a targeted sun, allowing a precisely positioned space telescope tens of thousands of kilometers away to directly image Earth-size exoplanets that otherwise would be drowned out in the star’s glare.


In the system currently being modeled, the starshade would unfold in space like a flower blossom, expanding to a diameter of 26 meters (85 feet) or so. The exoplanet-hunting telescope would then be positioned up to 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles) away. For that system to work, the two spacecraft would have to maintain their precise separation to within 1 meter (3 feet).



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