DARPA to Tackle Fake News Scourge (Updated)

By Stew Magnuson

Photo: iStock

AUSTIN, Texas — The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has kicked off a program that will seek out faked video footage that may be used to improperly influence populations, a senior agency official said March 20.

“We have all seen pictures and videos that have been altered. And a lot of that has been done by very advanced photographic video industries,” Dick Urban, special assistant to the DARPA director, said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Science and Engineering Technology conference in Austin, Texas.

Future movies will have animated figures that look and talk and act like real people. There is a a great deal of private investment going into the computer-generated technology, he noted.

“The malicious use of that could end up having a variety of effects,” he said. A well known political or military figure could be portrayed on video giving orders or delivering a speech. “It looks like them, it sounds like them, but it’s not them," Urban said. "This could have a significant effect on how people view that situation and it could alter their reactions."

The Media Forensics, or MediFor program will examine videos and photographs for the telltale signs that they have been altered. “It will look at the integrity of it and do pixel-by-pixel comparisons to find out if that person talking is really that person talking or a substitute voice,” he added.

There could also be a real video of a real person who has had words inserted into a speech that he or she did not say, he said.

The forensic tools used today lack robustness and scalability, and address only some aspects of media authentication, a DARPA fact sheet said. “An end-to-end platform to perform a complete and automated forensic analysis does not exist,” it added.

If the program is successful, the MediFor platform will automatically detect manipulations and provide detailed information about how these manipulations were carried out, it added.

David Doermann in the information innovation office is the MediFor program manager.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled David Doermann's name.



Topics: Defense Innovation, Emerging Technologies, Science and Engineering Technology

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