Schick warned that the more people find out about deepfakes, the more the fear of being tricked by the technology becomes more influential than the technology itself.
“In a world where anything can be faked, everything can also be dismissed as fake,” she said.
She points to the example where Winnie Heartstrong, US Republican candidate for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District, decried the video of George Floyd being suffocated by police in Minneapolis as a deepfake.
Schick, who has advised global leaders including US President-elect Joe Biden on synthetic media, said this doubt will have significant consequences on society if it is allowed to spread.
“Any kind of unity in society is probably going to splinter even more as we become increasingly polarised and go into our own silos of what is truth and what is reality,” she said.
There is hope in the coalitions that are emerging to tackle the problem. The Content Authenticity Initiative, for example, is a collaboration between Adobe, the New York Times and Twitter which is designed to find ways to authenticate media which has not been manipulated.
But “the problem is so big that it can’t fall to the tech companies alone to try and solve it,” said Schick. “Tech companies have to work with policymakers.”