Intel’s Fake Catcher. Use piracy against pirates. Complexity, error and a slippery slope of misreading.

In one look.

  • Intel announces anti-deepfake technology.
  • Use streaming pirated content to influence messaging.
  • Complexity, error and a slippery slope of misreading.

Intel announces anti-deepfake technology.

On Monday, Intel announced the availability of a new product, FakeCatcher, which the company claims captures fake video in real time with 96% accuracy. Developed in collaboration with a researcher from State University of New York at Binghamton, FakeCatcher does not filter out marks of inauthenticity, but rather authenticity. “FakeCatcher looks for authentic clues in real videos, assessing what makes us human: subtle ‘blood flow’ within the pixels of a video. As our heart pumps blood, our veins change color. These Blood flow signals are collected from around the face and algorithms translate these signals into spatio-temporal maps.” Video that lacks subtle blood flow signals fails the test and is exposed as inauthentic.

Intel believes technology helps restore trust in digital media. “Deception through deepfakes can cause harm and lead to negative consequences, such as reduced trust in the media. FakeCatcher helps restore trust by allowing users to distinguish between real and fake content.” And the company sees multiple use cases for its product. “Social media platforms could leverage the technology to prevent users from uploading harmful deepfake videos. Global news organizations could use the detector to avoid inadvertently amplifying manipulated videos. And nonprofit organizations could use the platform to democratize deepfake detection for everyone.”

Venture Beat’s report on the research highlights that FakeCatcher is an early result of Intel’s larger deepfake research program, and it also outlines why the problem is so difficult.

Use streaming pirated content to influence messaging.

Russian viewers are as interested in watching shows like The Walking Dead and Stranger Things as anyone else. The fact that these are American shows has nothing to do with the quality of Russian TV, which can actually be surprisingly good with workplace dramas and family sitcoms. But premium shows like The Walking Dead and Stranger Things aren’t consistently or readily available in Russia, and so they reach their audiences largely through pirated streaming.

Ukrainian influencers took the opportunity to tell stories about Russia’s war in Ukraine. The Record has an account of the content that Ukraine inserts into the streams. “The broadcasts show a man wearing a white hoodie, telling stories about the war in Ukraine,” the Record explains. “’I know it’s not the content you expected, but it’s what you need to see. This is the illegal truth about Russia’s war in Ukraine,” the man says, before clips begin of a house exploding following a missile strike, relatives crying over the body of a a murdered child or corpses pulled from the rubble.” Such news content is not available in Russia, but torrents of TV shows are widely available. “The man in the hoodie is a Ukrainian named Volodymyr Biriukov,” continues the Record, “one of eight journalists and activists behind a digital campaign called Torrents of Truth. Its members pirate pirated movies on torrent trackers to circumvent Russian censorship efforts and deliver real footage of the war in Ukraine.”

Torrents of Truth explains the nature of the loophole they’re exploiting to get the message across. “Since March 7, the Russian government has legalized intellectual property theft to counter economic sanctions against it, thereby encouraging Russian citizens to pirate content from ‘hostile countries’. Turning this into an opportunity to circumvent censorship , we launched a cyber action through popular P2P platforms in Russia by uploading testimonies of volunteer journalists on the war in Ukraine disguised as pirated torrents of movies, series, software, music and books.

Complexity, error and a slippery slope of misreading.

As Ukrainian President Zelensky appealed for help at the G20 meeting, Russian forces fired scores of missiles at Ukrainian infrastructure targets, obscuring much of the country. The Telegraph quotes Mr Zelenskyy’s later remarks on the strikes and their effects: “I know the strikes have cut off energy in many places… We are working, we will restore everything, we will survive.”

At the G20 meetings in Bali, representatives from Canada, the European Commission, the European Council, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom and United States issued a statement on the Russian missile campaign:

“We condemn the barbaric missile attacks that Russia carried out on Tuesday on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure.

“We discussed the explosion that occurred in the eastern part of Poland near the border with Ukraine. We offer our full support and assistance to Poland’s ongoing investigation. We agree to stay in close contact to determine appropriate next steps as the investigation progresses.

“We reaffirm our unwavering support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in the face of ongoing Russian aggression, as well as our continued willingness to hold Russia accountable for its brazen attacks on Ukrainian communities, even as the G20 meets to coping with the wider impacts of We all express our condolences to the families of the victims in Poland and Ukraine.

During this offensive, a missile fell on a farm in the Polish village of Przewodow near the border with Ukraine, killing two people, reports the Washington Post. At first it was said to be a Russian strike, possibly deliberate, against NATO member Poland. The AP reported Tuesday afternoon that “a senior US intelligence official said Russian missiles entered NATO-member Poland, killing two people.” Reuters also picked up the story, citing the AP. But the report was premature, and the AP issued a retraction on Wednesday, writing in part: “Later reporting showed the missiles were Russian-made and most likely fired by Ukraine to defend against a Russian attack. The Washington Post describes how the story took its (brief) legs. It seems likely that “Russian-made missile” (true) was confused with “Russian missile” (ambiguous) and then with “Russian fire” (probably not, as we will see).

Ukraine fired air defense weapons in response to Russian missile strikes. One of these air defense weapons, a Soviet-era S-300 missile, may be the one that fell on the Polish farm. This incident was initially interpreted as a missile fired by Russian forces, either targeting Poland or malfunctioning so as to hit Poland, but Polish and NATO sources quickly investigated and within hours concluded that the incident was probably the result of a Ukrainian accident. The investigation continues and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy still maintains that the weapon was not fired by his country’s forces. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg stressed that in any event Russia, as the aggressor, bore the ultimate responsibility for the deaths, since Ukraine was defending itself against heavy Russian missile fire and blind.

Initial results of investigations by Polish, NATO and US authorities concluded that the missile was likely a Ukrainian S-300 air defense weapon fired in response to the massive wave of around a hundred missile strikes yesterday’s Russians against Ukrainian infrastructure targets. The S-300 (NATO codename “Grumble”) is a Soviet-era (and therefore “Russian-made”) long-range air defense missile that entered service in the late 1970s. It is operated by several armies, including Ukraine, and a failing air defense weapon can certainly do damage if it fails to protect itself before falling to the ground, and it seems to have happened in this case.

TASS reported the official Russian reaction to the incident: it was a deliberate “provocation”. Russia’s UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky said on his Telegram channel: “There is an attempt to provoke a direct military confrontation between NATO and Russia, with all the consequences for the world.”

A provocation seems unlikely. The incident is in all likelihood a direct and foreseeable consequence of an intense missile campaign and the air defenses deployed against it. NATO’s Secretary General alluded to this reality of an air campaign when he said, “It’s not Ukraine’s fault. Russia bears the ultimate responsibility.”

The White House released a statement on the incident on Wednesday:

“We have full confidence in the Polish government’s investigation into the explosion near its border with Ukraine, and commend it for the professional and deliberate manner in which it is carrying it out. We are not going to preempt their work and remain in close contact with our Polish counterparts as we continue to gather information. We have seen nothing that contradicts President Duda’s preliminary assessment that this explosion was most likely the result of a Ukrainian air defense missile which unfortunately landed in Poland We will continue to assess and share any news We will also continue to stay in close contact with Ukrainians regarding any information they have to complete the picture.

“That said, whatever the final conclusions, it is clear that the party ultimately responsible for this tragic incident is Russia, which launched a barrage of missiles at Ukraine specifically intended to target civilian infrastructure. Ukraine had – and has – every right to defend himself.”

For its part, Russia says it is the real victim here, especially the victim of “Russophobia”. The Kremlin has, reports the Daily Beast, demanded an apology from Warsaw for thinking ill of Moscow. Official Russian statements continue to present the judgment as an insult, the insult as an insult (and, possibly, the insult as a provocation and casus belli).

Sharon D. Cole