Brand Protection
Intellectual Property

How Deepfakes Threaten Brands

Deepfake technology and brand protection

Deepfake technology has arrived in full, posing a major threat to individuals’ and brands’ trustworthiness and authenticity online. 

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, deepfakes are high-quality videos featuring replications of a person’s likeness. Simply put, it allows users to seamlessly create and edit videos of real people, granting them the power to choose what the person in the video says or does. 

There have been countless news reports in recent years involving deepfake technology. The coverage is almost exclusively about the technology being used for harm - from creating vile pornographic content to tricking people with complex phishing scams. 

In this article, we’ll cover how deepfake technology can threaten brands in particular, from launching misinformation attacks against individuals, to scamming loyal customers and even selling counterfeit products. 

Who Can be Targeted by Deepfakes?

By a wide margin, the most common abuse of deepfake technology targets celebrities, predominantly female entertainers. In January 2024, Taylor Swift’s likeness was used to create videos promoting a fake Le Creuset giveaway. In the same month, pornographic deepfakes of the singer went viral on social media, particularly on X, causing the platform to temporarily block searches for the singer’s name.

Other high-profile celebrities have found themselves the victims of deepfake creations, like Mr Beast and Tom Hanks, whose likenesses were used for a phony iPhone giveaway and a scam dental plan. 

But, as this technology becomes more accessible and sophisticated, the pool of potential victims is widening. No longer confined to the realms of celebrity, anyone with a publicly-viewable digital footprint could find themselves in the crosshairs before long. 

Business figures like CEOs, company founders, and company spokespersons are now at risk of having their likenesses copied. 

We’ve already seen deepfakes of highly recognized individuals like Elon Musk and Warren Buffet, but even small businesses can suffer this. As social media grows as an effective marketing tool - especially for new businesses - many founders of brand-new businesses will often put themselves as the face of the business.

Even influencers have become prime targets for deepfake scams. Their reputations, used to build trust with their online followers and partnering businesses alike, are at risk of being hijacked by these convincing digital replications.

So, in terms of using deepfakes to damage businesses, what are the actual methods in use?

Your Products Used in Scams

When deepfakes are used against businesses, the most common intent is for some sort of scam aimed at consumers. Such scams have been used to lure unsuspecting people by offering popular products like iPhones and PS5s or expensive kitchenware.

The intention behind these deepfakes is often for sophisticated phishing attacks, abusing the trust that consumers place in well-known celebrities and brands. Phishing attacks like these are an attempt to steal sensitive information from the target, be it banking information, passwords, or something else. 

To have a brand be abused for scams like this can leave a major dent in the trust they’ve spent years developing in their customers. This underscores the importance of building strong relationships with consumers based on transparency and authenticity. By prioritizing ethical business practices and promptly addressing any instances of fraud or deception, brands can reinforce their commitment to integrity and earn the loyalty of their customers.

Reputation Attacks & Misinformation

Reputational damage is a major risk with the development of deepfake technology. As videos of people in motion and even their own voices can be replicated nearly perfectly, whoever is creating a deepfake can have the person say, or do, whatever they want.

This can involve anything from sharing distasteful opinions to fabricating entire conversations that place the victim in a negative light, or even suggest criminal activity.

Deepfakes could even be employed to create fake company news. Announcements erroneously claiming upcoming layoffs, major product changes, extreme new policies, or even the closure of business would be easy to produce and could sow discord within the business’s ecosystem.

The intention behind this type of use of deepfakes would be less direct than phishing attacks, and is most likely to be for simply trolling the business. While there’s little in terms of preventative measures a brand could take against rogue individuals with access to deepfake technology, it’s essential for targeted brands to react when it does happen.

Selling Counterfeits

Counterfeiters have historically been quick to capitalize on emerging technologies, and deepfakes are no exception. 

With the ability to replicate the likeness of well-known personalities associated with a brand, counterfeiters can create convincing videos of trusted people to promote fake products. 

This poses a significant threat to brands' reputations, as unsuspecting consumers may be deceived into purchasing counterfeit goods they believe are endorsed by trusted figures. 

For those that receive a low-quality counterfeit, many may never realize the item is not an official product from the brand, thus tarnishing their reputation. In the case of counterfeit that meets the customer’s expectations, then they’ve found a cheaper alternative for future purchases.

Deepfake technology proves a huge opportunity for counterfeiters. Not only does it allow them to easily hijack long-built trust, but it’s another new avenue for them to promote counterfeit products, and giving brands another threat to deal with.

How Can Brands Mitigate The Dangers of Deepfakes?

So, where does the dawn of deepfakes leave brands? 

The misuse of the technology has led to a flurry of legal actions, including lawsuits from actors like Scarlett Johansson and Anil Kapoor. However, legislation across the world is playing catch up with this major technological curveball. Yet, brands can't afford to sit back and wait for major changes in legislation to protect them. 

Vigilance will be the key defense. There’s a critical need for individuals and brands to stay aware and proactive, keeping an eye open for deepfakes circulating in digital spaces and reporting them as quickly as possible. 

Many platforms like X, Facebook, and Cloudflare already have reporting mechanisms in place for brands and individuals to report abusive content like deepfakes, or Manipulated Media as it’s often referred to. 

If that fails, going down the rabbit hole may be the next best action brands can take. By following the links the deepfake content provides (while doing so safely and not putting your own information or hardware at risk, of course), and then reporting the final page, this type of abusive content can be handled effectively.

In the age of AI, where video editing can create illusions indistinguishable from reality, protecting your brand’s IP, staff, and reputation is essential.

To learn more about what's coming in 2024, like the rising online marketplaces, upcoming global legislation, and other counterfeiting strategies, watch our video on the Top 10 Predictions on Brand Protection Trends & Challenges in 2024 below.

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