In addition to 'deepfakes', which is the most advanced technological manipulation, 'cheapfakes' has already gained more worldwide attention because in a technological sense, it is most prone to various manipulations. So, 'cheapfakes', otherwise known as 'shallowfakes', can be a manipulation of video, audio, and photo content. This form of manipulation can be achieved by using some basic computer software, which enables interference in video, audio, or photos. This deliberate selection of certain video sequences does not reveal what was said, or what actually happened, but instead distorts reality, and as a result suits purpose of those who want to alter the truth. One of the forms of ‘cheapfakes’ happens when they interfer with the speed of audio, speeding it up or slowing it down, in order for the person speaking to appear in a certain, falsified way in front of the public. One such manipulation took place in the United States when House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi appeared in a video, allegedly drunk while talking about Donald Trump. Another way of 'cheapfakes' is to decontextualize the audiovisual content. One such example is the manipulation in the last US presidential election, when it intervened in the response of the Democratic candidate for president, Joe Biden, presenting him as if he was admitting the vote fraud. This narrative has, in effect befitted Donald Trump and his stauch supporters, who constantly talked about vote rigging in the presidential election. The video was shared on social media by his son, Eric Trump, by the White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and others. In fact, in this very video, Joe Biden talks about attempts to fight potential voter fraud.

Without a doubt, an easy way to produce 'cheapfakes' with false claims is by editing videos, and by meddling in the statements of politicians e.g., by changing their ranking, in order to convey a completely different message to the public. Something similar was produced in Kosovo during 2019 election campaign, namely when a video taken out of context was presented, and portrayed one of the vice presidents of the Democratic League of Kosovo, Lutfi Haziri. Haziri's manipulated statement was then used against his party's candidate for the prime minister’s post in the election, Vjosa Osmani, and that the video was purely a 'cheapfake'. So, indeed, ‘deepfakes’ appear to be a more dangerous manipulation.

Each time when we try to discuss how society can be protected from misinformation, what comes to mind is how does it relates to the country’s education system and the necessity of including media education in formal education, but without forgetting the scope of non-formal education. This is yet another issue that should be addressed urgently by the Government of Kosovo. Kosovar society must understand that maintaining a critical judgment of media content is crucial. One should not believe so easily in the information one gets from the media, and especially the internet-savvy, modern-day citizen must be aware that he or she can be 'attacked' by misinformation at any given moment and that, at all times, they must check and verify the information they receive. Another, very important element in the process of obtaining information is protecting oneself from various prejudices, because the citizen, often trusts information a priori, just for the sake of it strengthening hers/his prior, pre-conceived idea about a certain issue. This form of obtaining information is also dangerous, because the audiences can easily fall prey to manipulation. Consequently, it is not at all easy to implement comprehensive protection mechanisms from these manipulations, without genuinely investing in the education and training of the society as a whole, in the field of media literacy.

Author: Dren Gërguri - Lecturer

Background illustration: Photo by HayDmitriy from VistaCreate / VistaCreate license