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How to Tell if a Video is Fake

Suzy Woltmann Suzy Woltmann
6th July 2020
How to Tell if a Video is Fake
Fake videos are rampant (Getty Images)

Note: The views and opinions expressed in blog/editorial posts are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the views or opinions of Misbar.

It is becoming more and more difficult to tell if a video is fake or real. Deepfakes, a form of synthetic media that superimposes someone’s image onto already existing images or video, are very deceptive. 

For example, this video of actor Amy Adams has been deepfaked to have Nicholas Cage’s face superimposed on her own.

Deepfake example.gif
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

Deepfakes have the potential to trick people into believing that somebody has been taped doing something when they have not. The technology relies on a neural network called an auto-encoder, which trains the software to replace an image with another using machine learning. 

But how can you tell if a video is fake or real?

  1. Use common sense and critical thinking skills. Does the video depict something unlikely? Where did you find the video? Does it either confirm or oppose your political biases, or use inflammatory language? Is it from a sensationalist news source or social media source that does not link to legitimate news sites? Has the video been reported on legitimate news sites?
  2. Look for video issues. Signs such as glitches in the video or a warped display might indicate that the video is fake. Further, if the video is very short it is more likely to be fake.
  3. Analyze still images from the video. You can use tools like Amnesty International’s  YouTube Dataviewer or  the InVid browser extension. Do the lighting or shadows seem off? 
  4. Conduct a reverse image search (using the steps we describe here) of still images from the video. 
  5. Download the video and look into its metadata properties, which might tell you about the video’s origin. 
  6. Search for the video on popular video platforms using relevant search terms. Does the video match up with other videos depicting similar things?

Using these steps, you should be able to determine whether a video is real or fake.