A fake Queen Elizabeth danced across TV screens on Christmas as part of a “deepfake” speech aired by a British broadcaster.
The real British monarch traditionally delivers a Christmas Day speech aired around the world.
But her speech on Friday at 3 p.m. was followed by a digitally-created fake of the Queen, aired on Channel 4 and voiced by an actor, warning viewers to question “whether what we see and hear is always what it seems.”
The broadcaster said the video was supposed to offer “a stark warning about the advanced technology that is enabling the proliferation of misinformation and fake news in a digital age.”
Channel 4 annually accompanies the Queen’s traditional speech with an “alternative Christmas message.” This message has been aired since 1993.
It has long attracted controversy. Previous people to have delivered the alternative speech include Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president of Iran. Other notable invitees include US whistleblower Edward Snowden, Jesse Jackson and the children who survived the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.
But the 2020 iteration is rather different.
This year Channel 4 hired VFX studio Framestore to create a fake Queen Elizabeth, who spoke candidly about personal matters.
The video was manipulated using artificial intelligence technology.
The deepfake Queen discusses Prince Harry and Meghan’s move to North America, saying: “There are few things more hurtful than someone telling you they prefer the company of Canadians.”
The fake Queen also performed a Tik Tok dance routine.
“Deepfake technology is the frightening new frontier in the battle between misinformation and truth,” Channel 4 Director of Programmes Ian Katz said in a statement.
“This year’s Alternative Christmas Address — seemingly delivered by one of the most familiar and trusted figures in the nation — is a powerful reminder that we can no longer trust our own eyes.”
But Sam Gregory, program director at WITNESS, a group which train activists around the world to use video safely, cautioned against exaggerating the threat from deepfake technology.
“Deepfakes hype over-values (currently) hypothetical threats of perfect political deepfakes … over real threats,” Gregory tweeted on December 24 in reaction to the news of the alternative speech.
In her real Christmas message, the Queen commended frontline workers for their efforts during the pandemic and offered condolences to families who were unable to celebrate together due to coronavirus-related restrictions.