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Deepfake Queen Elizabeth performs TikTok dance in alternative Christmas message

Deepfake Queen: 2020 Alternative Christmas Message

Queen Elizabeth II performing a dance for TikTok as part of her traditional Christmas message? Surely not!

OK, it’s not quite how it looks, but this deepfake face-swapping video from a U.K. broadcaster may have you fooled for a minute (well, at least until Her Majesty begins strutting her stuff).

As part of a long-running Christmas tradition, British media broadcast a message delivered by the Queen (the real one) in which she reflects on the events of the past year while offering words of hope for the coming 12 months.

The message always appears on a mainstream channel such as the BBC, while another of the nation’s broadcasters, Channel 4 — part of whose remit is to take bold creative risks — likes to show its own Alternative Christmas Message.

Over the years, contributors have included the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen, Jesse Jackson, and Edward Snowden. But this year, the message was delivered by the Queen (most definitely not the real one).

“If there is a theme to my message today, it is trust. Trust in what is genuine — and what is not,” the fake Elizabeth tells viewers before reeling off a string of jokes about members of her family and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Toward the end, we even get to see what a 94-year-old head of state would look like if they performed a dance for TikTok. Back in her seat after pulling some moves atop the royal desk, the Queen holds her smartphone aloft before asking “whether what we see and hear is always as it seems.”

Coming at the end of a year that’s seen plenty of fact distortion and outright falsehoods landing online, Channel 4 billed this year’s alternative message as “a stark warning about the advanced technology that is enabling the proliferation of misinformation and fake news in a digital age.”

As we can see here, deepfake technology is able to take a famous figure and create a convincing video that is in fact entirely false, potentially leading to the spread of misinformation. And with the technology improving all of the time, it’s getting harder to tell what’s true and what isn’t, with Channel 4 urging people to take care when seeking out news sources.

Created by Oscar-winning VFX studio Framestore, Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message (top) was directed by Framestore’s BAFTA-winning director William Bartlett and features actress Debra Stephenson as the Queen. The team also offers a look at how it created the video (below).

Deepfake Queen: The Making of our 2020 Christmas Message

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