Manipulated media will fool you — yes, you

“We need to prepare for a new normal, where scrutinizing online images and videos is as natural as being fascinated by them.”

As a journalist, you’re likely among the last to fall for a bluff. You’ve probably stood your ground through chain letters, internet hoaxes, and even recent AI-generated articles and images.

That’s about to change.

Adobe, the creators of Photoshop, says editing software has become so sophisticated that we need to view all online images and videos with the same skepticism as scam emails.

The distinguished Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen recently gave us a taste of what is to come. Bendiksen set out to document life in the “fake news” capital of Veles in North Macedonia. Veles was home to at least 140 politics websites aimed at U.S. conservatives and Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential election.

This year, the result was published. In print, The Book of Veles investigates historical and current efforts toward producing disinformation and chaos, laden with photographs shot by Bendiksen.

Or so we thought. I was not the only victim when Bendiksen’s project turned out to be a tour de force of manipulation. The project had already received acclaim, and a screening at the prestigious Visa pour l’Image festival. The photos had been manipulated with 3D software. All the text was generated by AI.

Bendiksen was only exposed after creating a fake Twitter account portraying a Veles journalist that posted accusations against him.

“If an average nerdy photographer can go into his basement, look at YouTube tutorials, and create a whole photographic documentary from scratch, then we are in trouble,” Bendiksen said of the project. This book demonstratively proves we are headed for trouble.

In addition, a whole range of advances in synthetic media generation and media manipulation are currently broadcast-ready. Video games are drawing attention for looking increasingly realistic, and sophisticated computerized voice clones are convincingly replicating human voices. Director Jon Favreau confirms the trend: “It becomes harder and harder to trust your own eyes and ears when it comes to this stuff.”

With all these manipulation techniques increasing in sophistication and accessibility, they will trickle into more content. That is why we need to prepare for a new normal, where scrutinizing online images and videos is as natural as being fascinated by them.

Ståle Grut is a journalist and strategic advisor at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s R&D Lab, NRKbeta.

As a journalist, you’re likely among the last to fall for a bluff. You’ve probably stood your ground through chain letters, internet hoaxes, and even recent AI-generated articles and images.

That’s about to change.

Adobe, the creators of Photoshop, says editing software has become so sophisticated that we need to view all online images and videos with the same skepticism as scam emails.

The distinguished Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen recently gave us a taste of what is to come. Bendiksen set out to document life in the “fake news” capital of Veles in North Macedonia. Veles was home to at least 140 politics websites aimed at U.S. conservatives and Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential election.

This year, the result was published. In print, The Book of Veles investigates historical and current efforts toward producing disinformation and chaos, laden with photographs shot by Bendiksen.

Or so we thought. I was not the only victim when Bendiksen’s project turned out to be a tour de force of manipulation. The project had already received acclaim, and a screening at the prestigious Visa pour l’Image festival. The photos had been manipulated with 3D software. All the text was generated by AI.

Bendiksen was only exposed after creating a fake Twitter account portraying a Veles journalist that posted accusations against him.

“If an average nerdy photographer can go into his basement, look at YouTube tutorials, and create a whole photographic documentary from scratch, then we are in trouble,” Bendiksen said of the project. This book demonstratively proves we are headed for trouble.

In addition, a whole range of advances in synthetic media generation and media manipulation are currently broadcast-ready. Video games are drawing attention for looking increasingly realistic, and sophisticated computerized voice clones are convincingly replicating human voices. Director Jon Favreau confirms the trend: “It becomes harder and harder to trust your own eyes and ears when it comes to this stuff.”

With all these manipulation techniques increasing in sophistication and accessibility, they will trickle into more content. That is why we need to prepare for a new normal, where scrutinizing online images and videos is as natural as being fascinated by them.

Ståle Grut is a journalist and strategic advisor at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s R&D Lab, NRKbeta.

Kathleen Searles & Rebekah Trumble

Daniel Eilemberg

David Cohn

John Davidow

Andrew Freedman

Tamar Charney

Ståle Grut

Francesco Zaffarano

Jonas Kaiser

Eric Nuzum

Matthew Pressman

Nikki Usher

Chase Davis

Sarah Stonbely

S. Mitra Kalita

Izabella Kaminska

Megan McCarthy

Amy Schmitz Weiss

Joanne McNeil

Christina Shih

Matt Karolian

Joe Amditis

Stephen Fowler

Jim Friedlich

Jesse Holcomb

Chicas Poderosas

Parker Molloy

j. Siguru Wahutu

Richard Tofel

Victor Pickard

Janelle Salanga

Sam Guzik

Tom Trewinnard

Juleyka Lantigua

Simon Galperin

Anthony Nadler

Moreno Cruz Osório

Brian Moritz

Jody Brannon

James Green

Amara Aguilar

Cherian George

Michael W. Wagner

Millie Tran

Ariel Zirulnick

Jesenia De Moya Correa

Simon Allison

Shannon McGregor & Carolyn Schmitt

Kristen Muller

Kristen Jeffers

Jennifer Coogan

Jessica Clark

Larry Ryckman

Burt Herman

Julia Munslow

Anika Anand

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Robert Hernandez

Wilson Liévano

Christoph Mergerson

Melody Kramer

Catalina Albeanu

Laxmi Parthasarathy

Cristina Tardáguila

Don Day

Paul Cheung

Errin Haines

Mario García

Gonzalo del Peon

A.J. Bauer

Joni Deutsch

Gabe Schneider

Julia Angwin

Mandy Jenkins

Raney Aronson-Rath

Rachel Glickhouse

Sarah Marshall

An Xiao Mina

Joy Mayer

Cindy Royal

Kerri Hoffman

Mary Walter-Brown

David Skok

Doris Truong

Zizi Papacharissi

Mike Rispoli

Candace Amos

Joshua P. Darr

Whitney Phillips

Gordon Crovitz

Stefanie Murray

Shalabh Upadhyay

Kendra Pierre-Louis

Alice Antheaume

Matt DeRienzo

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Tony Baranowski

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Jennifer Brandel

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