Finding Truth in the Age of Deepfakes

17 May 2021
Finding Truth in the Age of Deepfakes

“The camera never lies”. Or does it?

About 160 years ago, a popular yet controversial play called The Octoroon hit the stage in New York and London. Filled with romance, crime and plot twists, it showed the villain attempting to frame someone else for a crime for which he was responsible. He would have succeeded in his treachery but for the invention of a new apparatus: the camera. Caught in the act by its tell-all lens, the villain was convicted due to evidence that was considered irrefutable.

It wasn’t long before photographic evidence had firmly established itself in court cases. In one of the most famous trials of the 1930s, involving the kidnapping of aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh’s son, the use of photographs by the prosecution was key to the defendant’s conviction. Although manipulation of photos was possible and even occasionally employed in these early years, the level of effort and skill required and the sterile results were not enough to discredit the notion that a camera is generally a reliable witness.

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Nathan Tasker