Deepfakes Attack! How Brands Can Fight Back


The Gist

  • Growing threat. Deepfakes risk brands’ reputation through disinformation, fraud, requiring detection and proactive planning.
  • Democratic danger. Deepfakes erode trust, manipulate elections — and threaten democracy’s foundations.
  • Detection measures. Techniques including AI-driven platforms and manual clues can be utilized to spot and combat deepfakes.

The proliferation of AI-generated deepfakes poses serious risks for brands in the form of viral disinformation, fraud and reputational damage. As these manipulated images, videos and audio become more sophisticated, brands must deepfake-proof their businesses. This involves the use of deepfake detection platforms, social listening, incident response plans and simply learning how to spot fakes. Proactive deepfake contingency planning must become part of every brand’s social crisis strategy. Let’s explore some insights and best practices to future-proof brands against the prospect of deepfakes.

What Are Deepfakes and Why Are They a Problem?

Deepfakes aren’t exactly new at this point, after all, people have been using Photoshop to manipulate images for years. The difference is that now, through the use of artificial intelligence (AI), deepfake images, videos and audio can be created so effectively that it is practically impossible to tell them from the real thing. Consider this deepfake video of President Nixon giving a speech about the death of the Apollo 11 crew on the moon.

nixon video

Creating a deepfake video involves teaching a computer to mimic the voice and appearance of a chosen individual, referred to as the “target.” This is done by feeding it an extensive amount of audio, video or pictures of the person that is to be imitated. Additionally, details are provided about a “source,” such as an actor who performs the specific actions or utterances that the target will seemingly enact. 

travolta hanks

Here is a deepfake of actor John Travolta, rather than Tom Hanks, in the role of Forrest Gump.

The process is accomplished by employing artificial neural networks. These networks operate in a way that resembles the human brain’s method of problem-solving. They examine evidence, detect underlying patterns, and use these patterns to process and apply new data. The result is a convincing imitation of the target, synthesized from the source’s performance. Although deepfake technology in and of itself is not much of a problem, the speed at which social media users spread deepfakes can lead to widespread beliefs that the deepfake is real, which can cause real-life problems.

Ricky Spears, CMO and founder of, an internet and gaming tutorials and tips blog, told CMSWire that due to the way that deepfakes are created, obfuscation can be an effective technique to thwart their creation. “A large amount of data, usually in the form of photographs or videos, about the desired person whose resemblance is to be placed on another subject is necessary for a successful deepfake.”

Spears explained that this data is used to train the AI model and record different facial expressions and perspectives. “If you use a program that adds digital artifacts to videos in order to hide the pixel patterns that face recognition software uses, the deepfake algorithms will run more slowly and produce less accurate results, making it more difficult to deepfake successfully.”

There are many deepfakes that have been created for their entertainment value, such as this clip which put comedian Jerry Seinfeld in the role of the scared shooter in the classic movie Pulp Fiction.

seinfeld pulp fiction

Although it is an example of a deepfake that was well done, it is unknown if Seinfeld saw the humor in it. For celebrities who are themselves a brand, the use of their images in unauthorized movies and video clips is essentially theft and is becoming more of a problem every day.

The use of synthesized digital images and videos is part of the reason why the American actors’ union SAG-AFTRA went on strike over an ongoing labor dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), largely due to the studio usage of artificial intelligence to scan actors’ faces to generate performances digitally. 

Related Article: Can We Fix Artificial Intelligence’s Serious PR Problem?

Deepfakes Are a Threat to Freedom and Democracy

Aside from the damage that deepfakes can do to businesses, deepfakes present a dire threat to the institutions and principles of democracy. By spreading false yet seemingly credible information, deepfakes can erode public trust, manipulate elections, destroy reputations and ultimately distort the truth. When citizens cannot distinguish the truth from fiction, the foundation of informed debate and consensus crumbles. 

Dan Brahmy, co-founder and CEO at Cyabra, a social threat intelligence platform provider, told CMSWire that while fake content online has been present since the early days of the internet, deep fake technology uses AI and machine learning algorithms to take it to a new level, generating video and audio content that seems completely authentic, and has the potential to deceive millions of people. “In the hands of malicious actors or adversarial foreign threats, deepfake technology has the potential to cause major harm to companies, brands, governments, and to society in general,” said Brahmy.

Without a means of accountability through the ability to verify information, deepfakes introduce instability and divisiveness into the democratic process. Leaders lose legitimacy and democracy becomes susceptible to mass manipulation. Only through a combination of media literacy, legal protections, authentication systems and public awareness can the problems caused by deepfakes be reduced. Addressing the challenge of deepfakes is necessary to preserve functional democracies that are built on transparency and understanding. 

“Currently, deepfakes exhibit a level of credibility never before seen, both in visual and auditory capabilities,” said Brahmy. “In recent years, deepfakes have been used to sway public opinion on major societal issues — war, elections, and financial crises. It has also been used to damage the reputation and tarnish the names of companies, brands, and celebrities.”

The use of deepfakes in the 2024 presidential election campaigns has already occurred when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign released a video on social media that used deepfake images depicting Donald Trump hugging Dr. Anthony Fauci.

desantis war room


In August 2023, the Federal Election Commission began to take steps toward regulation of the use of deepfake material in political ads. Initially, they will seek public comment on whether existing federal rules against fraudulent campaign advertising can be applied to ads that use AI.

The use of deepfakes has real-world consequences in situations such as branding, politics, and in the following case, war. In March 2023, a deepfake video of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was posted on social media, asking his soldiers to lay down their arms.



“Deepfake technology can be used to impersonate anyone, whether it’s a person close to us or the President. Other famous deepfakes included Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Kim Jong-Un, and many others,” said Brahmy.

Related Article: FTC Won’t Tolerate Generative AI Deception in Marketing, Customer Service


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