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Deep Fakes – deceptively real fakes

The Internet is full of photos and videos. When there are pictures to go with a text, people often take that as proof that it is a true news story. Unfortunately, photos and videos can also be deceiving or even fake. Deep Fakes refers to just such fakes. They lead to the fact that disinformation can be spread even better, because they look very convincing.

How do Deep Fakes work?

Artificial intelligence, or very clever computer programs, can be used to falsify or completely recreate sound or video recordings. Deep Fake developers can, for example, put any statement into a person’s mouth or make them do things they didn’t do in real life. The software analyzes recordings of a person and “learns” their facial expressions and gestures. After that, any sentences can be spoken and the recording manipulated to make it look as if the person said it themselves.

Meanwhile, this software can be downloaded from the net for free. There are even relatively easy-to-use apps, so almost anyone can create and distribute Deep Fakes.

What is so dangerous about deep fakes?

Fake videos are dangerous because they look so convincing. Information in text form is viewed more critically by people than information that is seemingly proven with photos or videos. Many people know that photos can be faked, but this is not yet so well known about videos. Children and younger adolescents in particular are at great risk of falling for this deception because their media skills are not yet very well developed.

Many deep fakes are created for fun, such as to alter well-known movie scenes and entertain the audience. However, it is also becoming increasingly common for the fakes to be produced with malicious intent: Fake news spread to influence political opinions thus becomes more credible and also more dangerous. Fake video and audio recordings can also be used to commit fraud by initiating money transfers using false identities. The goal of a Deep Fake is usually to harm a single person. In addition to politicians and celebrities, private individuals also become victims time and again.

What is the significance of deep fakes for young people?

When teenagers fall for deep fakes because they don’t recognize them as fakes, in most cases it’s harmless. If the trick is cleared up after the fact, such as in a video by a famous German YouTuber, it can even be an educational experience.

It becomes problematic when young people allow themselves to be manipulated by Deep Fakes into revealing certain information or into putting themselves in inappropriate or dangerous situations.

It can also happen that teenagers themselves are targeted and a Deep Fake is created that exposes them. This can be a very embarrassing and traumatic experience for those involved.

New technical possibilities are also always attractive to young people. It may be that your child is trying to create Deep Fakes himself. So far, there are no specific regulations on deep fakes, nevertheless they can be legally problematic. For example, there is a risk of copyright infringement through the use of protected video recordings. Videos can also violate personal rights if they are insulting or defamatory.

What does this mean for parents?

Deep fakes are a relatively new phenomenon that is rapidly evolving. While it’s not always easy to understand the technical details, it’s important to talk to your child about these topics. Here are a few tips on what points you can address:

  • Trust: If your child becomes a victim of Deep Fake themselves, it is important that you know about it. If you are in conversation about his or her media use, you can support your child if necessary.
  • Respect for others: If your child wants to download a Deep Fake app on his or her own, discuss together what the limits are so that your child does not harm another person or commit a criminal offense.
  • Critical use of videos: Show your child how to check if a video is a deep fake. Assistance in this respect is provided by, for example

“logo!” ZDF’s children’s news explains how to recognize deep fakes.

“Reporter” a YouTube channel of public broadcasters, takes a closer look at how Deep Fakes are created.

“Deutschlandfunk Nova” the young information program from Deutschlandfunk explains in a youth-friendly way how to recognize manipulated videos.

Dark Social – the dark side of the Internet?

A particular advantage of the Internet is fast and easy communication. Most often, we use social networks and messenger services for this purpose. However, usually only those who write and chat with each other know what it’s all about. The contents remain hidden from the outside. That’s a good thing, too, because after all, some things you only want to discuss with your best friend or with mom.

What does Dark Social mean?

However, people also use these communication channels who have other intentions than keeping personal things to themselves. They want to spread false news and manipulate opinions. What we know as fake news from news portals or social networks is also increasingly taking place in hidden, i.e. dark networks. This is referred to as dark social because there is no insight into the communication. No one can control whether the Internet is abused in this way. Radicals or people with extreme political views use chat groups to target people and build trust. They sneak into such chats through others, spreading messages that others forward carelessly.

Dark Social Risks

This is a danger not only for children and teenagers, because it feels like chatting with friends or family via the smartphone. Messages you get in what should be a private chat group look credible because you know the person who shared them. One assumes quite unthinkingly that the report is actually true and does not question it. In this way, false reports can spread quickly and opinions can be manipulated.

This is what you and your children should pay attention to

No matter where you get information from, you should question it critically and not believe everything. That is certainly easy to say. A tip: You should be careful and better check news items that particularly stir or excite you emotionally. Can you find references to it elsewhere? Research the news story on the Internet and look at a variety of sources. Think about where the information came from and who spread it. Even if a friend, close confidant or relative writes, in many cases it’s worth just asking. You and your child should be especially critical when casual acquaintances or contacts spread information. In Messenger groups, too, you should be sensitive to fake news, hate speech, and insults to individual groups.

When your child recognizes that you, as a parent, are critical of information, you encourage such behavior in your child as well. Explain to him why some people manipulate information and how to handle information.

Young people in particular are constantly looking for role models and want to feel they belong. They build up their own values and ideals, which can be negatively influenced by third parties.

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