The clip started out as a joke, but that doesn’t stop something gaining its own nefarious life online
Ihate to have to say this, but here we go: Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo, baby shark! Why am I inflicting this horrible earworm on you? Because some people are convinced that the president of the United States had a brain spasm and started singing the children’s song while addressing a community college in California. There is, you see, a video circulating online that shows Joe Biden announcing that he will sing the national anthem, then bursting into the opening lines of Baby Shark. Some people have latched on to the video as “proof” that the US president is suffering from dementia.
Biden, I probably don’t need to tell you, did not actually sing Baby Shark. The video was made using deepfake technology, which is essentially hi-tech Photoshop for moving images. As deepfake technology grows more accessible and more sophisticated, it is being used in increasingly nefarious ways. Deepfake porn, for example, is already a big problem: one study found that between 90% and 95% of online deepfake videos are nonconsensual porn; about 90% of those are nonconsensual porn of women. Deepfake political videos are also a fast-growing issue. There are worries about how they might be used to spread misinformation and influence elections.
This particular video, by the way, wasn’t meant to be nefarious misinformation. As its creator told the Associated Press, it was simply a joke. This is something anyone in possession of half a brain cell could have gleaned by watching the video: it’s full of deliberate signs that there is something fishy afoot, including a logo in the corner that looks like that of the satirical site the Onion (the creator is not affiliated with the Onion). Alas, jokes can quickly take on a life of their own online; misinformation isn’t any less harmful just because it was originally intended as a joke. The video of Biden singing Baby Shark is funny, but the future of deepfake technology is deeply unamusing.