You’ve probably heard of deepfakes by now. The short answer is: Fake videos of people speaking, singing, or otherwise saying something that they never actually said. But maybe you didn’t know how much controversy they’ve caused. Maybe you’ve even seen some of the controversial videos. Let’s take a look.
The Controversy Surrounding Deepfakes Began In Full Display At The Grammys
It all began at the Grammys. While accepting the award for Record of the Year for “Welcome to London,” BTS performed a medley of their songs. Midway through the medley, the crowd began to boo and hiss at the sight of the band members. One of the members, Jin, then began speaking in Korean, and the booing turned into a standing ovation. What happened next would become a major Twitter trend (and an all-time-high for BTS), with users comparing the pop band sensation to Hitler and questioning why they were even there in the first place.
Most people pointed to a tweet by Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic Bob Lefsetz. In the tweet, Lefsetz compared BTS to “Mussolini’s boys,” and stated that “when you have to have a political argument with a pop star, it’s usually an indication that you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” Lefsetz later deleted the tweet, saying that he didn’t mean to sound so harsh.
After The Grammys, Twitter Users Viciously Attacked BTS
BTS became the focus of much animosity after the Grammys. Twitter users began comparing the band to Hitler, blaming them for the problems the world is facing today, and calling out member Jin for being too aggressive in his speech. While many defended BTS, comparing them to American heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr., some took things a little too far.
For example, one user tweeted about how much he hated BTS and compared them to the Nazis, saying, “I really hope they all die, especially that f*cking Jin.” A few hours later, the user tweeted again and said that he wanted to “kill” BTS. A few more Twitter users joined in, calling out BTS for being “monsters” who should be compared to Hitler and the Nazis.
Fortunately, Jin didn’t take the attacks very seriously. In an interview with Billboard, he said, “I don’t know how much this affects the outside world, but for us, it’s like catnip. It’s just like, ‘That’s bulls*#%.’ We don’t pay attention to what others say. We just continue making music.”
But The Attacks On BTS Were Only Half Of The Story
While the attacks on BTS were disturbing, it was only half the story. BTS had become the target of a major “deepfake” attack as well. On TikTok, users began using software designed to automatically replace the faces of famous people in videos with those of other celebrities. Unfortunately, some of these videos were created using recordings of famous people that weren’t meant to be a part of the “deepfake” game. In other words, the faces had been swapped by mistake. When the videos began getting tagged as such, the videos started receiving major pushback from the original creators. (If you happen to be new to this whole deepfake thing, here’s a quick primer:)
Let’s say you want to create a fake video of Kendrick Lamar performing at the 2018 Grammys. Using software like FaceTracer, which is widely available for free on the internet, you begin by recording a short snippet of the Grammy-winning artist. Once you have the snippet, all you have to do is replace Kendrick’s face with that of another famous person (in this case, Robert Pattinson). While FaceTracer is a fantastic tool for the job, it’s still possible to tell that it’s fake. (If you’re curious, you can try out FaceTracer yourself. Just make sure you’re using a desktop or laptop computer for the best results. If you’re on mobile, things will look a little bit different because of the way videos are displayed on small screens.)
Twitter and TikTok removed most of the videos that were being unfairly targeted by algorithms as a result of the “deepfake” controversy. Since then, the videos of BTS collecting the most views usually involve them performing at some point in their set. But as the world becomes more connected and people rely more heavily on social media, the controversies surrounding “deepfakes” are bound to rise and fall with the times. And as long as there will be videos, there will be people trying to manipulate them.