News Brief: RepresentUs launches first Deepfake campaign featuring Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un

By TATUM MAPES

September 29, 2020, RepresentUs, a non-partisan anti-corruption organization, released two videos titled “Dictators,” featuring Deepfakes of Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. The videos are a part of a larger ad campaign titled “Save the Vote.”

The politicians are pictured addressing the viewer in a public announcement-like manner, warning them of the dangers of government corruption and the power that voters hold. In the Kim Jong-un commercial, the very convincing Deepfake says “democracy is a fragile thing, more fragile than you want to be.” 

“Kim Jong-un” goes on to warn of gerrymandered districts, increased polarization, and the closing of polls. This already unsettling video ends with the dictator saying, “It’s not hard for democracy to collapse. All you have to do is nothing,” then smiling. RepresentUs closes with the message “This footage isn’t real, but the threat is.” The Vladimir Putin deepfake shares a similar message.

In response to criticism over the use of Deepfakes, the organization says “We wanted to use this ad to stress the urgency of the political crisis that our country is in and decided on the concept of having Americans hear from real dictators about the fragility of our democracy. Using deepfake technology was the best way to accomplish this in a way that was most realistic and had the potential to create the strongest impact.”

The advertisements have had a mixed response.

Both ads were set to air after the evening’s presidential debate on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, but they were banned from airing. RepresentUs has turned to a widespread social media campaign instead. The videos can be viewed on their YouTube Channel and other social media platforms.

The Save the Vote campaign, endorsed by celebrities ranging from Sia to Ed Helms, intends to encourage American citizens to register to vote against political corruption. It advocates for safer, more accessible voting methods, including mail-in ballots.

The Kim Jong-un ad can be viewed here.  
The Vladimir Putin ad can be viewed here.

Featured photo: Courtesy of RepresentUs website

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