A Framework for Ethical Synthetic Media

Victor Riparbelli
Dec 4, 2019 · 3 min read

As synthetic media technologies evolve and increasingly become an integral part of the media production value chain it is important that we as technology providers take responsibility for the ways in which our products are used.

We propose a simple framework of consent, control and collaboration for working with synthetic media in a commercial context and it is our hope that other companies will join us in following these simple guidelines.

Synthesia technology is already used in video production today to translate and personalize video content in a much more scaleable way than what has been possible before. If you’re curious to learn more about how our technology is used today have a look at our website.

David Beckham speaking 9 different languages using Synthesia technology.

Synthetic media will significantly accelerate creative expression and lessen the gap between idea and content, for good and for bad. It will bring with it new methods of communication and storytelling, enable unprecedented human-computer interfaces and challenge our perception of where the digital realm begins and ends.

The capabilities to edit and synthesise media is of course nothing new. Visual effects in the film industry has been around since film was invented. PhotoShop was released in 1991 and evolved photography from an analog to a digital creation process. Software synthesisers enabled a generation of bedroom producers to create chart-topping hits from their laptop.

More recently Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram has pioneered face filters and similar editing tools that have given everyone the ability to express themselves through beautiful and creative images.

These technologies have changed the equation of entire industries in their own right. AI-driven synthetic media technologies will be the next big paradigm shift.

These new technologies also bring with them challenges around truth, identity and media provenance. How do we protect our voice and visual likeness from being abused by people with malicious intent in the era of synthetic media? We have already seen the issues that arise when everyone can broadcast anything through social media platforms that often amplify emotional and provocative content rather than the truth.

It is clear to us that artificial intelligence and similarly powerful technologies cannot be built with ethics as an afterthought. It needs to be front and centre, an integral part of the company.

We expect these rules to mould over time as synthetic media technologies evolve and become part of our daily lives. If you have ideas or comments please feel free to send us an email.

Consent

  • No-one should be synthesised without consent. We propose implementing a digital consent system to streamline the process.
  • For example, synthesising public figures without consent violates these ethical guidelines no matter the intention of the content.

Control

  • Actors should be in control of their likeness and should have access to a record of all synthetic media content they appear in.

Collaboration

  • A general willingness, within reasonable means, to engage in public discourse and education around synthetic media.

Victor Riparbelli

Written by

CEO & Co-founder @ Synthesia.io — we’re building the future of synthetic media. Interested in technology, culture, music & art.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade