‘Deepfake’ Queen’s speech sparks heated debate over whether it’s ‘genius’ or ‘offensive’

Joanna Taylor
Thursday 24 December 2020 11:54
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(Twitter )

A Christmas message delivered by a ‘deepfake’ of the Queen has people feeling very divided.

Some are calling the Channel 4 videodistasteful” and “offensive”, while others say it perfectly highlights the importance of fact-checking and combating online disinformation.

The video, which is an advert for a longer broadcast on Christmas day, features the ‘Queen’ poking fun at the BBC and Megxit.

In a parody of her usual Christmas broadcast, she (appears to) say:

“On the BBC, I haven’t always been able to speak plainly and from the heart. So I am grateful to Channel 4 for giving me the opportunity without anyone putting words in my mouth. [...]

I was so saddened by the departure of Harry and Meghan. There are few things more hurtful than someone telling you they prefer the company of Canadians.”

Although he isn’t explicitly mentioned in the video, a large photo of Prince Andrew sits next to one of Harry and Meghan.

Like them, he recently stepped back from his royal duties, but under completely different circumstances: after a revealing interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis, he admitted his former friendship with pedophile Jeffrey Epstein had become too much of a "distraction” to the royal family.

Deepfakes are created by swapping part of an existing video with someone else’s likeness. Artificial intelligence helps to create a realistic effect.

Since their emergence in 2017, they have been used to spread disinformation, create revenge porn and to pull off fraud.

This isn’t the first time a deepfake has been created to warn people of their dangers, though, as in this deepfake of Obama, or for parody purposes, as in this deepfake of Trump.

But some people think that deepfaking Her Majesty is a step too far. 

Others have defended the “genius” broadcast, pointing out that it is supposed to offer a warning about deepfakes rather than dupe people. 

Responding to criticism, a Channel 4 spokesperson told indy100: 

"It is very clear in the four-minute film that this is a parody of the Christmas Day address and viewers will be left in no doubt that it is not real.  However, while the film is light-hearted, affectionate and comedic in tone, it carries a very important and timely message about trust and the ease with which convincing misinformation can be created and spread.  

This is part of a series of programmes examining the spread of misinformation and a Dispatches documentary, Deepfakes: Can You Believe Your Eyes, will further explore the emergence of deepfake technology on 28th December on Channel 4."

The full broadcast will reportedly feature the ‘Queen’ joking about other royals and attempting a TikTok dance. 

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