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Why?

This lesson raises awareness about the ethical implications and societal impact of deepfake technology, a rapidly evolving field in artificial intelligence. It teaches critical thinking and media literacy skills, enabling students to consider how they would tell the difference between real and manipulated content in an era where digital misinformation is prevalent. By exploring the challenges of deception and authenticity in digital media, the lesson underscores the importance of ethical standards and personal rights in the  digital landscape. Additionally, it fosters a deeper understanding of the balance needed between technological innovation and maintaining public trust, preparing students to navigate and contribute responsibly to our increasingly digital world.

Materials Needed

Materials Needed

Case study handout Projector for video Computers or tablets for simulation

Time needed

Time needed

Approximately 60 - 90 minutes

Objectives

  • Students will be able to explain the concept of deepfakes and how they are created.
  • Students will be able to critically analyze and articulate the ethical implications of deepfakes in media.
  • Students will be able to evaluate and respond to a real-world scenario involving deepfakes.

Key Concepts & Vocabulary

  • Deepfake: A highly realistic video made using artificial intelligence techniques to superimpose one picture over another, typically to make it appear that a person is saying or doing something they did not.

Lesson Components

  1. Before You Watch: Connect lesson to background knowledge about deepfakes and get students’ attention 
  2. Video: Show the pedagogy.cloud video explaining the ethical considerations in the topic of deepfakes.
  3. Case Study: Detail a real-world scenario that discusses a news website posting a controversial deepfake video.
  4. Simulation: Lead students through an interactive activity exploring the possible ethical considerations in determining how to respond when a deepfake video is posted.
  5. Discussion: Ask whole-class questions to reflect on experience and consider perspectives.
  6. Assessment: Verify student understanding with an exit ticket

Warm up

Video Introduction: Show a short clip that has a real video and a deepfake side by side. Ask students to compare the two to see if they can identify which one is the deepfake, and how they know. Ask how much students have seen deepfakes, and if they have any specific stories.

Case Study

Distribute or read Case Study handout.

Summary: This case study examines the consequences of a local news website unknowingly publishing a deepfake video of a mayor’s speech, leading to intense public debate and division over its authenticity. The situation escalates as the community is split, with some believing the mayor’s denial and others convinced by the video, ultimately raising concerns about the erosion of public trust and the difficulty in distinguishing truth in the digital age. The incident results in the news organization issuing an apology and adopting stricter content verification processes, sparking wider discussions about ethical journalism, the need for public education in digital literacy, and regulation of deepfake technology.

Student Handout

Case Study: A Deepfake Dilemma

Introduction: This case study explores the impact of deepfake technology on public trust and media integrity. It centers around a local news website that unknowingly publishes a deepfake video of the mayor’s speech.

Scenario: In a small yet politically active community, a local news website releases a video depicting the mayor giving a highly controversial speech, which includes some incendiary remarks and policy proposals. The authenticity of the video rapidly becomes a topic of heated debate among the public. The mayor vehemently denies making such a speech, claiming the video is a fabrication. An investigation is launched, which later confirms that the video is indeed a deepfake, a sophisticated AI-generated falsification. 

Community Reaction: The community is sharply divided in its response to the incident. Some residents are quick to believe the mayor’s denial, citing his previous track record and character, while others view the video as credible, leading to a surge in mistrust towards the mayor. Some people saw the video but not the response, and fully believe the mayor should be kicked out of office. The revelation that the video is a deepfake only adds to the confusion, with a segment of the population questioning the ability to discern truth in the digital age. Social media platforms become battlegrounds for debates on the implications of AI in media and the erosion of public trust.

The Debate: Opinions vary widely among community members and experts. Some argue that the news organization should be held accountable for not verifying the authenticity of the video before its release, highlighting the need for stricter standards in journalism. Others focus on the dangers posed by deepfake technology, calling for regulations to manage its use. Meanwhile, a few advocate for greater public education on digital literacy to combat the spread of such deceptive content.

Conclusion: The news organization behind the release asserts that they were not aware of the video’s fabricated nature at the time of publication. The case culminates in the news organization issuing a public apology and implementing stricter verification processes for content. It sparks a broader discussion on ethical journalism and the need for awareness and regulations surrounding deepfake technology.

Questions

  • How did the release of the deepfake video affect the public’s trust of both the mayor and the local news organization? What could be long-term consequences of this video?
  • Would you support government regulation of news and social media content for the purpose of preventing deepfakes from tricking people?

Simulation

Group Formation: Divide students into small groups, each representing a different stakeholder in the deepfake scenario above (media organization, government body, tech company). 

 

If desired, students could be given time on computers to research more information about deepfake technology and proposed solutions.

 

Within each group, students could optionally be assigned specific roles for the initial discussion:

  • Media Organization: Editor-in-Chief; Investigative Journalist; Social Media Manager who posted the video in the first place; Copy Editor / Fact Checker; Legal Advisor
  • Government Body: The Mayor; City Council Member(s); County Judge; Public Relations Officer; Legal Counsel
  • Tech Company: CEO; AI Researcher; Public Relations Manager; Security Expert; Legal Advisor

 

Scenario Presentation:  Present a detailed scenario (see below) involving the release of a deepfake video, similar to the case study provided earlier. Outline the challenges and decisions each group must face. Each group is tasked in a handout with determining the appropriate response to the deepfake video, and establishing policies going forward.

 

Group Role Play: Each group role-plays their response to the scenario, making decisions based on their research and discussion. Encourage groups to explore different outcomes that could result from their decisions. 

If available, students could use computers or tablets to research this issue to help them determine appropriate responses for their organizations.

Whole Class Discussion: Groups share their strategies and outcomes with the class. Discuss the real-world implications of deepfakes and the importance of ethical decision-making. Facilitate a discussion on the various goup approaches, their effectiveness, and ethical considerations.

Student handout

Simulation: Organizational Policy Meetings
Deepfakes are hyper-realistic videos created using artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. They can make people appear to say or do things they never did, posing significant challenges to truth and trust in digital media.

In a small community, a local news website publishes a video showing the mayor giving a controversial speech, filled with provocative remarks. Upon finding out about the controversy, the mayor denies ever making such a speech, asserting the video is a fake. Subsequent investigation reveals the video to be a deepfake, leading to public debate and confusion over the authenticity of digital content and the integrity of both the mayor and the media.

General Instructions
You will be discussing the issue of deepfake videos within a particular organization’s policy meeting. Each group will use their discussion time to develop a strategic approach based on their roles and perspectives. Consider the ethical, legal, and societal implications of your decisions. Your aim is to collaboratively form a comprehensive response to the deepfake scenario presented.

The organizations are listed on the back of this page. If your teacher decides to use individual roles, those are explained as well.

Questions to help guide your discussion
Ethical: What standards of truth and authenticity should exist in digital media? What ethical responsibilities do your organization, and the other organizations, have in preventing the spread of false material? How much should right/wrong guide the response to this incident?

Legal: Who is responsible for the false content? Should anyone be held liable in court? How might existing laws apply to deepfakes?

Societal: How do deepfakes affect public trust in media, government, and technology? What are the potential long-term impacts of deepfakes? How can society adapt to challenges posed by deepfakes? What will help the public be better informed?

Discussion

These questions are designed to be used in whole-class discussion. Ask questions that relate most effectively to the lesson.

  1. What are deepfakes, and how can they be identified?
  2. How do deepfakes affect our perception of truth in media?
  3. What responsibilities do media organizations have in verifying content?
  4. What laws or regulations, if any, should govern the use of deepfakes in media?
  5. How much of the blame for this controversy is on the public for believing that deepfakes are real?
  6. Are there legitimate uses for deepfake technology? How can the line be drawn between legitimate uses and inappropriate uses?

Assessment

Exit Ticket: Provide a prompt for students to reflect on their learning, such as: 

  • How has your understanding of deepfakes and their impact on media changed? 
  • What is one thing you can do to be a more discerning media consumer?

Sources to Learn More

  • Ctrl Shift Face – A YouTube channel that makes deepfakes replacing actors’ faces with other people’s faces in movie scenes
  • Deepfake video depicted Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy telling his soldiers to lay down their weapons and surrender – Seen as a brand new “battleground” in war