Date of Award

Fall 12-19-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Program of Study

Communication - Corporate Communication

Language

English

First Advisor

Minna Logemann

Second Advisor

Allison Hahn

Third Advisor

Caryn E. Medved

Abstract

The spread of misinformation and disinformation is regarded as one of the most salient challenges for communication professionals around the world.

Now, a new technology called "DeepFakes" or “Synthetic Media” has the potential to further uproot the infosphere. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will enable the mass creation of synthetic audio-visual content that resembles real videos, in which people will appear to say or do things they never actually said or did.

The existing literature predominantly focuses on three aspects of DeepFakes and Synthetic Media: the technical background, coverage of preexisting DeepFakes and possible solutions to combat the malicious use of the technology. This research study specifically explored whether communication professionals are adequately prepared for this new phenomenon, as it is likely to increase uncertainty, erode public trust and create a myriad of liabilities, in terms of crisis and reputation management.

Data was gathered through a survey and interviews with communication professionals, as well as interviews with technology and policy experts. The analysis of the data confirmed my hypotheses that communication professionals are not adequately prepared for the challenge of DeepFakes and Synthetic Media, both in terms of digital literacy and communication strategy. The study further highlighted an alignment gap between communication professionals and experts, as it pertains to combating the malicious use of the technology, as well as embracing potentially positive applications. The study recommends integrating information on DeepFakes and Synthetic Media into education curricula for communicators. Expert data suggested that the challenge of the new technology is too complex to be handled by communication and information technology (IT) departments of individual companies. It is, therefore, important for companies to connect with specialists and consultants that can tie into large-scale efforts by governments, university researchers and large tech platforms to combat the spread and malicious use of DeepFakes and Synthetic Media.

By taking steps to alleviate insecurity and fear around the issue, communication departments could feel more empowered to embrace positive applications of DeepFakes and Synthetic Media, while, at the same time, having tools and strategies at their disposal to combat their malicious use.

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