For the first time Her Majesty the Queen appears to be delivering Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message. The annual televised Christmas Day broadcast, usually a message of hope and unity, will be a stark warning about the advanced technology that is enabling the proliferation of misinformation and fake news in a digital age.
Startlingly familiar at first, the Queen speaks “plainly and from the heart” in the address to reveal what she and Philip have been up to in lockdown, offer a hint about Prince Andrew’s future travel plans and share what she really thinks of Harry and Meghan’s move. Following a breath taking TikTok dance routine the Queen says the theme of her Christmas message is “trust” and in a final remark warns viewers to question “whether what we see and hear is always as it seems”.
The ‘deepfake’ Queen on screen has been created by Oscar-winning VFX studio Framestore. Deepfake technology can be used to create convincing, yet entirely fictional video content of people in the public eye, and therefore can be used to spread misinformation. With such advancements in technology enabling a slick and believable presentation of misinformation across all areas of life, from politics to public health, it’s never been more important to seek out trusted sources.
The four-minute film features renowned actress Debra Stephenson as the Queen. Directed by Framestore’s BAFTA-winning director William Bartlett, the comedic script was written by James Kettle.
Channel 4 Director of Programmes Ian Katz said; “Deepfake technology is the frightening new frontier in the battle between misinformation and truth. 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.”
William Bartlett, the film’s director said; ‘This was a great project to be asked to direct. Deepfake is an interesting spin off from the recent advances made in machine learning and AI and while it is a powerful new technique for image makers everywhere it is also a tool that can be used to misrepresent and deceive. With Channel 4 we wanted to create a sequence that is hopefully entertaining enough that it will be seen by a lot of people and thereby spreads the very real message that images cannot always be trusted.’
Channel 4 will continue to explore the emergence of synthetic media in the Dispatches documentary Deepfakes: Can You Believe Your Eyes airing on 28th December. Investigating the growing world of internet fakes, Dispatches Reporter Morland Sanders will reveal new statistics showing how the world is being bombarded with fake content.
The Alternative Christmas Message airs at 3.25 pm, Christmas Day on Channel 4