Uncovering the Who, Why, and How Behind Manipulated Media

The threat of manipulated multi-modal media – which includes audio, images, video, and text – is increasing as automated manipulation technologies become more accessible, and social media continues to provide a ripe environment for viral content sharing. The creators of convincing media manipulations are no longer limited to groups with significant resources and expertise. Today, an individual content creator has access to capabilities that could enable the development of an altered media asset that creates a believable, but falsified, interaction or scene.

“At the intersection of media manipulation and social media lies the threat of disinformation designed to negatively influence viewers and stir unrest,” said Dr. Matt Turek, a program manager in DARPA’s Information Innovation Office (I2O). “While this sounds like a scary proposition, the truth is that not all media manipulations have the same real-world impact. The film industry has used sophisticated computer generated editing techniques for years to create compelling imagery and videos for entertainment purposes. More nefarious manipulated media has also been used to target reputations, the political process, and other key aspects of society. Determining how media content was created or altered, what reaction it’s trying to achieve, and who was responsible for it could help quickly determine if it should be deemed a serious threat or something more benign.”

While statistical detection techniques have been successful in uncovering some media manipulations, purely statistical methods are insufficient to address the rapid advancement of media generation and manipulation technologies. Fortunately, automated manipulation capabilities used to create falsified content often rely on data-driven approaches that require thousands of training examples, or more, and are prone to making semantic errors. These semantic failures provide an opportunity for the defenders to gain an advantage.

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