Deepfakes in Your Community are Inevitable

This conversation with Mohamed Mohammed, a community manager and a PhD student studying deepfakes, is timely. Just last week, a deepfake emerged attempting to spread misinformation that the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, was announcing surrender to Russia’s invasion. In that situation, preparation and rapid response helped minimize the spread of misinformation.

So, what’s your community strategy against deepfakes? Mohamed recommends starting with learning from the information and experts in our field. He also shares an important reminder: As community professionals, while we may want to prevent all harms from happening, we simply can’t. However, we can minimize the harm that’s caused, and we can educate our community members to identify and flag suspicious behaviors. Just as many platforms adjusted their community guidelines and enforcement rubrics to prevent the spread of misinformation, deepfakes represent a new area for us to learn about and help our communities adapt.

Mohamed and Patrick also discuss:

  • Why science denial is banned in the community
  • What good governance on deepfakes might look like
  • Mohamed’s PhD on deepfakes

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Big Quotes

Ground your moderation in your guidelines (6:13): “There was no way to not iterate our [community] policies when the world shut down because of a global pandemic, when flat Earth or conspiracy theories found their way to the forums. When these things happen, you have to make changes. Otherwise … we look shadowy. We start banning content or removing forum posts simply because we think it’s a bad thing. Even if everyone agrees with us, the perception is so important. The perception that we’re consistent within the scope of our guidelines is massive to being able to, for lack of a better term, keep the peace.” –@MMohammed_Comms

If your community has the same problems as a big social media platform, why should people stick around? (9:24): “If you’re not consistent [in your community moderation,] and if you happen to have the same problems as bigger platforms, then what’s the difference? Why am I investing all of this time as a user into this forum of yours when all of my efforts are being met with inconsistent approaches to keeping the place safe?” –@MMohammed_Comms

Antagonizing people to engage (11:30): “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that [the antagonistic content we discourage as forum managers] is the same thing a brand whose KPI is engagement on Twitter will post just to get engagement and to antagonize someone into giving the rapid-fire answers that get people. Nothing brings engagement on a place and an echo chamber quite like a divisive question. We’re trying to be the opposite.” –@MMohammed_Comms

In the words of Sam Gregory, “Prepare, don’t panic” (40:48): “Don’t get scared about this apocalyptic vision of deep fakes … [just] read as much as you can about them. I know it’s going to sound scary, but the more you understand them, the more you get comfortable with the fact that tools are advancing.” –@MMohammed_Comms

Shoutout to the supportive managers out there (46:01): “Having a [supportive] manager is to me the difference between having this long career that can be fulfilling and rewarding and can help you feel better about yourself versus something where you have to build this foundation all by yourself.” –@MMohammed_Comms

About Mohamed Mohammed

Mohamed Mohammed is a community manager at Future Plc, managing forums for brands such as PC Gamer and He is also a PhD candidate at the QUEX Institute, researching the platform governance of deepfakes.


Your Thoughts

If you have any thoughts on this episode that you’d like to share, please leave me a comment, send me an email or a tweet. If you enjoy the show, we would be so grateful if you spread the word and supported Community Signal on Patreon.

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