Can’t believe your eyes? Well, you may just be right

By Nikki, Assistant Social Work Manager, AFA Fostering

Unbelievable as it may sound, what you see may not always be the truth. Artificial intelligence (AI) is an emerging technology rapidly making headlines. So, what is it, and what does it do?

AI, as defined by Tech4Fresher, is a subset of computer science that mimics human intelligence. It enables machines to perform tasks that would typically require human intellect, including learning, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making. At its core, AI is based on sets of rules encoded in algorithms, and it has the capacity to improve task performance through machine learning, whereby data is iteratively fed into the system.

AI’s advancements bring both positive and negative implications. It has proven beneficial in various sectors like healthcare, where it aids in detecting aggressive breast cancer, and in corporations, where it enhances productivity and efficiency, and also in our everyday lives. However, a type of AI known as “deepfake” is raising concerns.

Deepfake involves digitally altering videos of individuals, often maliciously or to spread false information. The materials for these alterations are often sourced from the internet and social media. Deepfake technology is increasingly being misused, as recently reported by ITV News, where people’s voices and images are manipulated to create deceptive scenarios.

There was a report about a mother who received a call from someone she thought was her daughter. The person on the phone was pleading for help, saying she had been kidnapped and that the kidnappers wanted ransom money for her release. Shockingly, it wasn’t her daughter, but an AI impersonation.

In another instance, a mother reported that AI technology was used to recreate the voice and image of her son, who had tragically been stabbed and killed. The AI-generated video was used to advocate against knife crime.

The implications are severe and very real, as illustrated by an incident involving one of our own foster families. They became victims of deepfake technology when their child’s voice and image had been taken from his social media accounts and were manipulated to create a damaging video, causing severe emotional distress. This has been reported to the police and is being investigated.

They described the impact this had on them:

“One of our children came home one day, distressed about a video of him that had been cloned and manipulated to include damaging content. The emotional toll this incident has taken on him and us is not something we can comprehend. It’s shocking to think that merely having an online presence can lead to such harmful misuse of images and voices. We saw a related report on ITV, and it was timely. Reflecting on this, if we hadn’t experienced this directly, we wouldn’t have imagined our own child could be vulnerable to this kind of technological abuse.”

Despite its positive potential, the misuse of AI, particularly in the form of deepfakes, highlights the need for vigilance and stronger regulatory measures.

We all need to get a better understanding of this new and rapidly emerging technology, and we urge all our foster parents to speak to your fostering social worker straightaway if anything of concern arises.

For more information, you can refer to the following news articles:

ITV News: The Latest Artificial Intelligence News 

ITV News: Deepfakes and a robot’s warning: Why AI leaves more questions than answers 

The Guardian: What are deepfakes – and how can you spot them?