14 de junho de 2023

You could have fooled me: IA in the era of post-truth


The ubiquitous Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the current news queen. Among the “apocalyptic side” preaching its regulation and the “integrated side” selling its wonders, the technological innovation of the moment has already gained a new application: to turbocharge fake news.

AI-based systems are being successfully used not only to create convincing fake written pieces but mainly to facilitate the creation of unauthentic images – photos and videos – with excellent, precise details. They are increasingly perfect simulations, capable of deceiving not only the human eye but even the machine itself –figure the effect on my aunt and her group of bingo friends on WhatsApp.

In a study conducted two years ago, researchers at Sungkyunkwan University in Suwon, South Korea, used deep fakes to “trick” facial recognition APIs and achieved up to 78% success. That is, that old cry that an image is worth more than a thousand words seems to be outdated by AI.

For those already having chills by imagining a scenario in which it would be impossible to differentiate the real from the false, the good news is that the “vaccine” for post-truth imagery exists and has its origin in technology. Using NFTs – unique cryptographic tokens based on blockchains – can attest to the authenticity of an image, a document, or a file in a (currently) irrefutable form. In fact, NFTs, compared to modern AI, are very old and accessible.

You may ask: But if there is a safe way to attest to the truthness of the images, why is this practice not yet standard? Why do the pictures I take with my top-notch smartphone, containing a lot of information such as location, date, and time, not also bring this NFT? Well, that is a fair good question indeed.

What seems quite clear at the moment is that we will not have an outstanding cry for this kind of solution. And this is not just because my aunt (just figure her out again) does not have the remotest idea of what is a deep fake or an NFT. But because fake news – as well as the good old rumor – is the favorite entertainment of many people. They are exciting, controversial, and surprising. Hence their popularity on social media.

Even better:  Born out of desires and worldviews of specific groups, they bring what psychologists call confirmation bias. In short, they reaffirm our pre-established theories and concepts. And they are pushed if they help make us feel part of a group, that of those who know the “truth” that others do not know – even if it is a lie. At the end of the day, as Nelson Rodrigues would say when proclaiming his soccer team Fluminense as the best in the world, “(…) someone can tell me that the facts prove the opposite, and I reply: too bad for the facts”.

Well, if the final receiver accepts most fake news based on much less sophisticated content – which can usually have their falsity proven with simple internet searches – why would you move through technology to detect the deep fakes that come around?

In fact, this is where, finally, my point comes in. If the general public will not demand a solution, or if the large technology companies continue to shrug on the content they distribute and many political leaders benefit from this scenario, are we destined for a future in which reality and fiction will be one thing?

As an eternal optimist, I still prefer to believe not. But for this, all who still care about post-truth risks need to start moving. Just as today, we charge companies and entities a socio-environmental commitment with ESG targets, we need to seek a broad public commitment to truth – at least in the sense it had until the end of the last century.

I know this may still sound strange. Many of us, who grew up before a social media world, consider that not lying is the basis of any ethical relationship. But, unfortunately, it seems that this has become something out of fashion.


The articles presented herein do not necessarily reflect Aberje’s opinion, and its content is the author’s sole responsibility.



Benitz is a journalist with 30 years of experience in corporate communication. Since 2013, he is a partner and director of Engaje! Comunicacao. He led prominent PR projects such as the launches of the Real Beauty Campaign for Dove, the brand Quem Disse Berenice for the O Boticario Group, and the rebranding of the Brazilian maritime cruises to Royal Caribbean. His experience also covers works for brands such as AWS, Tigre, BRF, Unilever (Food), Nissan, Land Rover, Yahoo, Embratel, Danone, and Faber-Castell.

Os artigos aqui apresentados não necessariamente refletem a opinião da Aberje e seu conteúdo é de exclusiva responsabilidade do autor.


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