The Deepfake Report

In Belgium, the Flemish Socialists took the liberty of doing a PR stunt in 2018 that backfired. The party published a video on Twitter and Facebook in which then President Donald Trump recommended that Belgium withdraw from The Paris Agreement. At least, that's what many users believed. The video was a deepfake, a video generated with artificial intelligence. Because of its poor quality, the creators considered it impossible that anyone would believe the video to be real. This case impressively shows what happens when deepfakes start circulating.

Today, three years after the Belgian incident, deepfake videos are becoming more and more realistic. They are more likely to fool us. The German election year of 2021 leads to the question: Is our democracy in danger? We – an international team of 17 young journalism students and 12 tech students – dared to experiment. Can we create deepfake videos of politicians in just a few weeks? How would the politicians react to this? The result is the documentary "The Deepfake Experiment".  

Our website offers even more: "The Deepfake Report" paints a comprehensive picture of deepfakes. Renowned experts talk about the risks, but also the opportunities of the technology. An avatar of erotic model Micaela Schäfer as serious news anchor guides through the topics of the website – this, too, aims to raise awareness. We can no longer fundamentally rely on the truthfulness of authentic-looking content. This is where we see the great responsibility and opportunity of professional journalism.  

Disinformation is nothing new in human history but artificial intelligence is pushing the boundaries of what is possible. We also shine a light on this perspective. How deepfakes are used in the future concerns everyone. We believe that for our society, now is exactly the right time to talk about it: Where do we need to protect democracy, where do we need to protect individuals from misuse? The technology in itself is neutral. The question is how we deal with it.  

The "FreeTech Academy of Journalism and Technology" belongs to Axel Springer, Europe's leading digital publisher. Under one roof, the new institution combines a school of journalism, the previous Axel Springer Academy, and now also a training program for tech talent. In order to link journalism and technology, even more, the "FreeTech" dovetails the two strands very closely:

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