Not hard to fake video online

One of the items on my annual “Internet Truths” list is, “Be Skeptical of What You Find Online.”

In today’s world with today’s technologies, it’s easy to edit and manipulate audio, photos and video to portray whatever you want.

In the digital world, seeing is not believing. You can’t trust what you hear online. You must take everything written with a grain of salt.

Never has the need for heavy digital skepticism been more apparent than with the Face2Face Project (http://stanford.io/1q6uGRu).

Essentially, the project alters a video of a person talking to change what that person is saying. A camera records the facial expressions of one person while talking and “pastes” that information into a video of another person (http://wapo.st/1T9VtYI).

The test examples cited by the scientists who created this face mapping and “photometric” process include Presidents George W. Bush and Barrack Obama, Vladamir Putin and Donald Trump (http://bit.ly/1RsjR5c).

The results, in most cases, are seamless, realistic and quite disturbing.

Someone can alter a 15-second clip of, say, a presidential candidate, make him or her say something offensive and share it online as the real thing. The rapid, viral powers of the Internet will do the rest.

Since truth always seems to play catch up to rumor and innuendo online, the damage will be done and almost impossible to clean up after the fact.

Which is why a wise online consumer is always skeptical of anything presented in the digital domain.

Never take anything at face value (pun probably intended). Which, unfortunately, is what many people do.

NASA, for example, recently ran a story online detailing how researchers captured, for the first time, the bright flash of an exploding star’s shockwave, known as the “shock breakout” (http://go.nasa.gov/1MHstkl).

Accompanying the story was an animation simulating a star’s shockwave and explosion (http://bit.ly/1pC5wtw). Apparently, a number of people thought the animation was actual video of the star exploding.

And, indeed, at first glance, one could make that mistake, though the animation isn’t exactly movie quality special effects.

There are more high-quality video hoaxes online that are absolutely convincing. The popular ones tend to deal with space shuttle disasters.

One video on YouTube (actually, one of many copies on YouTube), “documents” what appears to be the destruction of a shuttle by alien spacecraft (http://bit.ly/1Rsk0G2).

Once you get through the seemingly endless introductory text, you finally get to the pay off: Two “alien ships” near the shuttle, a sudden loss of video signal and, when the signal is restored, a view of a shuttle debris field in space.

It’s well made. But it’s fake. We know this because the guy who made it, TheFakingHoaxer, says so (http://bit.ly/1LNy5yF). He’s made other videos, including a destroyed Air Force One and a film of aliens on the moon (http://bit.ly/22AT4fo).

Yet, a lot of people believe the shuttle video is real and continue to copy and share the clip as proof of a NASA cover up of alien activity.

Now, more than ever, it is important to vet everything you access or find online — especially before you use, download, share or believe the material.

In today’s interconnected, snap judgment world, separating fact from fiction is critical.

Keith Darnay is the Tribune’s online manager and has worked in the online world for more than two decades. His site is at www.darnay.com.

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