Reed Smith Guide to the Metaverse

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Deepfakes take the form of face reenactment (that is, where software manipulates an individual’s facial features), face generation (where a new face is created which does not relate to a specific individual), face swapping (where one person’s face is swapped with another), and speech synthesis (where voices are re-created). Shallowfakes are similar, but they involve more basic editing techniques.

How do these connect to the metaverse?

By their very nature, deepfakes and shallowfakes are a direct threat to the accuracy of information relating to any individual in the existing digital environment. However, the threat that they pose will only increase as our interactions with the metaverse increase, given that there will be more opportunities for the use of deepfake technology. While many deepfakes have been created as obvious parodies (such as a 2020 deepfake of Richard Nixon announcing the failure of the 1969 Moon landing, or the use of deepfakes of Queen Elizabeth II by a UK public service television network in their 2020 “Alternative Christmas Message”), their increasingly convincing nature means that this technology can be used for more troubling purposes.

What are the legal issues?

Deepfakes and shallowfakes can be used for the manipulation of pornographic material (for example, revenge porn) as well as for political purposes (for example, to fake political statements or actions). Both such uses (which are just two examples among many) can have an obvious and dangerous impact on the privacy and reputation of individuals. This is particularly so for those in the public eye, but also more widely. Deepfakes and shallowfakes can be used to suggest that individuals have made comments or taken part in activities (ranging from the controversial or socially unacceptable to the illegal) when they did not. There are also clear implications relating to the safety of convictions in the criminal justice system.

On the other side of the coin, the existence of such technology allows wrongdoers appearing in unaltered material to claim that it has been altered – again with potential implications for the justice system as well as politics – potentially allowing wrongdoers to claim that video evidence is “fake news.”

There are a number of ways that the law can tackle deepfakes and shallowfakes.

Key takeaways
  • Deepfakes and shallowfakes are a direct threat to the accuracy of information relating to any individual in the existing digital environment
  • The law can tackle deepfakes and shallowfakes in several ways
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