The Washington PostThe Washington Post

A falsified video of Ukrainian President Zelensky showed how deepfakes can be disarmed

23 Mar 2022 · 2 min read

The menace of the political deepfake has been around for a few years now, but last week something even scarier seemed to arrive: the geopolitical deepfake, in the form of a falsified video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urging his people to give up their weapons. But rather than setting off a panic, this one showed that deepfakes can be disarmed if they are dealt with calmly and rationally.

The deepfake that set off alarms last week ended mostly in ridicule. The video’s low quality accounts for some of its failure to convince much of anyone that Mr. Zelensky was actually offering his surrender: The leader appeared mostly motionless, his pixelated head larger than his body. His voice, too, sounded all wrong. Yet even a more sophisticated clip might have fallen flat, thanks to the way in which the fake’s targets responded to it and, in the government’s case, even preempted it.

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