Henry-Rowling 120

Henry Rowling

Co-founder of charity innovation consultancy Flying Cars, guest blogger

Charities Aid Foundation

Guest Blog 

Trust Issues: what does the rise of deepfakes mean for charities?

19 September 2019

(NB: This is the first of what we hope will be many guest posts for CAF's Giving Thought blog. As such, it is important to clarify up front that while we retain some degree of editorial control, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Charities Aid Foundation. Right, as you were.)

Recently I’ve been thinking about what impact deep fakes will have on people and their ability to trust what they see. This is a fast approaching challenge and you need to get on top of it and develop a plan. If you are unsure about what deep fakes are, or why they will affect your organisation and your customers, read on.

It's now possible to generate a fake face with the press of a button. You can make fake text messages to trick your mates. Do fake fake check ins and even fake a motorbike accident to get more likes and followers.

We're moving to an era of deep fakes that will only grow and grow as technology becomes ever more powerful and accessible for all people - no matter what their motives might be. But don’t worry, new technology is being developed to detect the fakes that new technology has created. Ever feel like you’ve disappeared through the looking glass?

What impact will this have on the average human psyche? Thanks in part to the ongoing attacks on the mainstream media  for being  “Fake News” by Donald Trump (and a growing number of other public figures, it has to be said), the question of who to trust has become a battlefield. But what happens when you become unable to distinguish the fake from the real?

This happens already - there are many examples of those on political extremes circulating doctored pictures of events that simply didn’t happen, or at least didn't happen in the way they are being described. And often before these fake stories can be debunked they’ve already been shared, retweeted and liked tens of thousands of times, spreading their propaganda and misinformation far and wide. Once that genie is out of the bottle, it's almost impossible to put it back in.

Fast forward two or three years and it is extremely likely that we will be even less able to trust the information we are presented with. We will become more paranoid and mistrustful of what we see and read.

At this point in time charities still have relatively high trust levels with the general public, but this cannot be taken for granted. In fact there are signs it may already be under threat: according to some research, one in five already consider charities untrustworthy.

Most trust indicators show a decline in trust in charities over the last 5 years. Stories about CEO pay levels, safeguarding failures, scandals around white saviour positioning and dropping ambassadors like a stone all add to the noise and allow people to put charities in the basket with everything else that ‘just cannot be trusted’. These stories gradually erode trust, like waves battering a cliff.

Trust remains flat across all institutions

2018 Edelman Trust Barometer UK Findings

Protecting your organisation

So, what can you do to protect your organisation from this assault on trust - which has already begun, and which the prevalence of deep fakes will almost certainly accelerate?

  • As people increasingly surround themselves with news sources that confirm their own view of the world (confirmation bias), you need to make sure your news feed is on their list of trusted sources - encourage, prompt and ask people to follow you on socials - and do it often.
  • Make sure you use online review services and ask your stakeholders to rate you- google business, glassdoor, facebook, trust pilot - can all be used to show your audience that you are a trustworthy organisation that cares about what your audience and stakeholders think about you. The less visible online trust indicators you have, the less trustworthy you are.
  • Get the faces of your staff visible online - the more your organisation has a visible human presence the greater trust in you will be. Services likeLoom and Veed and incredibly powerful smartphones make video shooting easy. Use more video to connect directly with your audience.
  • Build honesty and transparency in to your brand and tone of voice. Brands that often talk about some of their failures and challenges are more believable and relatable. If you paint yourself as an infallible non-stop success machine you have a long way to fall when the inevitable comes.
  • Be clear about how and why you use data in the way you do. Opaque and murky data practices kill trust quickly

The battle for trust and authenticity in a world of prolific faking is here and accelerating fast. Make sure you are on the right side of it. Your organisation's future depends on it.

Henry Rowling

Henry Rowling is co-founder of Flying Cars, an innovation, insight and strategy collective for charities and cause-driven brands. Henry has over a decade of experience working for some of the UK’s leading charities in strategy, innovation, product development and digital fundraising.