The Ethics of Faceswapping Software

In a rather forthright video essay, a visibly bewildered Tom Scott spoke about the ethics of faceswapping software, particularly as it relates to non-consensual video to be used as “algorithmic blackmail” against someone for money or for political gain. All it requires, per Scott “a Windows 10 PC, a powerful Nvidia graphics card, moderate tech skills and …no sense of empathy.” To test out the software, Scott, an experienced coder, recruited his friend Matt Parker to swap faces with him within the video. The results were considerably less than perfect, however Scott doesn’t expect it to be too far in the future when the software is more refined and more readily available.

Tom Scott Matt Parker Faceswapping Ethics

Making clips like that is only going to get easier. Yes, it requires days of training now, but it won’t for long. Someone’s going to come along and package up an algorithm in a way that doesn’t seem questionable: it’ll be a fun app about putting your face in movies rather than the current horrible use. That’s just a question of marketing. As of last week, you can no longer trust a video of someone unless you also trust its source. If you wanted to fake a certain alleged Donald Trump tape, then all you need is a body double, a few days of compute time, and no conscience.

Matt Parker Tom Scott Faceswap

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.