Deepfake satellite imagery poses a not-so-distant threat, warn geographers

Deepfake satellite imagery poses a not-so-distant threat, warn geographers


Satellite imagery can be seen as inherently trustworthy because of the expense in creating it. | Image: DigitalGlobe via Getty Images

When we think of deepfakes, we tend to imagine AI-generated people. This might be lighthearted, like a deepfake Tom Cruise, or malicious, like nonconsensual pornography. What we don’t imagine is deepfake geography: AI-generated images of cityscapes and countryside. But that’s exactly what some researchers are worried about.

Specifically, geographers are concerned about the spread of fake, AI-generated satellite imagery. Such pictures could mislead in a variety of ways. They could be used to create hoaxes about wildfires or floods, or to discredit stories based on real satellite imagery. (Think about reports on China’s Uyghur detention camps that gained credence from satellite evidence. As geographic deepfakes become widespread, the…

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