Algorithmic Video


Infodemic is a neural network-generated video that questions the mediated narratives created by social media influencers and celebrities about the coronavirus. The term ‘infodemic’ can be traced back to the SARS outbreak in 2003, but gained popularity in February of 2020 when the WHO Director, General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated: “we’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous.” The speakers featured in the video are an amalgam of celebrities, influencers, politicians, and tech moguls that have contributed to the spread misinformation about the coronavirus by either repeating false narratives, or developing technologies that amplify untrue content.

The talking heads in Infodemic are generated using a conditional generative adversarial network (cGAN), which is used in some deepfake technologies. Unlike deepfake videos where a neural network is trained on images of a single person to produce a convincing likeness of that person saying things they did not say, we trained our algorithms on a corpora of multiple individuals simultaneously. The result is a talking head that morphs between different speakers or becomes a glitchy Frankensteinian hybrid of different people that contributed to the current infodemic speaking the words of academics, medical experts, or journalists that are correcting false narratives or explaining how misinformation is created and spread. The plastic, evolving, and unstable speakers in the video evoke the mutation of the coronavirus, the instability of truth, and the limits of knowledge.

Infodemic is a collaboration with Derek Curry as part of our research into the spread of misinformation and neural networks.