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Deep Fake Love Shows the Disturbing Effects of A.I. on TV

The Spanish Netflix reality show sets a terrifying precedent for the very thing SAG-AFTRA is fighting against.
  • Couples are put through unnecessary devastation because of A.I. videos in Deep Fake Love. (Photo: Netflix)
    Couples are put through unnecessary devastation because of A.I. videos in Deep Fake Love. (Photo: Netflix)

    There are any number of tricks and gimmicks that dating reality show producers have tapped lately to make their series stand out. In some cases, that means incorporating some form of completely made-up technology into the mix: Are You the One? has the Truth Booth, Too Hot to Handle has Lana, and The One That Got Away has the ominous portal. While a little too contrived, these robotics are ultimately harmless, reading more as silly than scientific. But Deep Fake Love, a new Spanish reality dating series that premiered July 6 on Netflix, ventures into a much more unsettling realm, employing deep fake A.I. technology to put couples to the test.

    The show revolves around five couples who aren’t just engaged in flings. Some of them are engaged and already planning their wedding, others have been together for nearly a decade. While there are trust issues that led each pair to come onto the show, these couples aren’t unusually unstable or drama plagued, at least not until they enter into the deep fake experiment. Each couple is split up, with five people going to one house full of singles and five going to another. One half of the couple must guess whether videos of their significant other kissing, licking, or having sex with someone else while in their respective house is real or fake. But the couples aren’t told the clips might be fake right away.

    It’s not until after the couples watch the first set of traumatizing, life-altering videos of their partners being unfaithful that host Raquel Sánchez Silva tells them that the videos might be fake. There’s a 100,000 euro prize, but it isn’t based on trust or fidelity — instead it goes to the couple who has the most correct guesses about each video, testing the bounds of human recognition of deep fake technology more than the strength of each relationship.

    The series demonstrates exactly how it employs the A.I. alterations, showing a split screen of an interaction between two people whose faces simply got very close without touching or, in some cases, bodies that are very far away from each other, next to two actors with similar colorings, body types, and outfits kissing or laying on top of each other. Through a scanning visual effect, the faces of those who didn’t kiss are scanned onto those who did, showing how easily the eerie technology can be employed. This leads to some disturbing re-interpretations of perfectly innocent moments created to “test” each contestant’s significant other. In the first episode alone, A.I. is used to make it appear that one man is trashing the entirety of his five-year relationship and another woman is having a hot and heavy makeout sesh with someone else.

    Throughout the series, the deep fakes get even raunchier, showing halves of couples getting into bed with singles, using A.I. to impose their likeness onto actors feigning having sex. In the world of the show, these videos, whether they are real or fake, deliver devastating blows to these relationships. Even if what one half of the couple is viewing turns out to be altered, they still had to sit through watching their partner do something awful — it’s not an easy visual to forget, fake or not. And the fact that some videos are fake creates reasonable doubt for those with bad intentions to act on any physical urges, knowing how easy it could be to explain away as A.I. But at the end of the series, the couples do discover which videos were real and which were fake, making that only a temporary excuse, but that’s all some people need.

    But beyond even how this technology affects these contestants’ personal lives, the use of A.I. in this way in a TV show sets a terrifying precedent for how it could be employed in the future. It’s possible that the production company that made the series now has access to these contestant’s likenesses to use for whatever they want. While Deep Fake Love appeared to only scan contestants' faces and use body doubles for the rest of their deceit, the technology to create full-body deep fakes has only been improving over the last five years, soon making body doubles obsolete.

    The use of digital replicas of human actors is one of the biggest sticking points between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP that led to SAG-AFTRA’s strike. The guild was pushing to “establish a comprehensive set of provisions to protect human-created work and require informed consent and fair compensation when a ‘digital replica’ is made of a performer, or when their voice, likeness, or performance will be substantially changed using AI.” They claim that the AMPTMP “failed to address many vital concerns, leaving principal performers and background actors vulnerable to having most of their work replaced by digital replicas.” Deep Fake Love is evidence of just how easily this can be done — the show’s very existence proves that the issue is more pressing than ever.

    Seeing these oft-discussed technologies in action is enough to inspire nausea, but having it employed in such an exploitative way so nonchalantly feels like a harbinger of doom for humanity. Using deep fakes to destroy relationships as a form of entertainment is a completely unnecessary exercise. If anything, Deep Fake Love serves as not just another trashy reality show, but a warning about the dangers of using A.I. in television.

    Deep Fake Love is streaming on Netflix.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Deep Fake Love, Netflix, Are You the One?, The One That Got Away, Too Hot to Handle, Raquel Sánchez Silva, Artificial Intelligence, SAG-AFTRA